Category Archives: 30 Day Writing Challenge

“In The Beginning” – Posts from the self-imposed 30 day writing challenge. Thirty articles in thirty days written in an attempt to fall back in love with the 30×30 project and get ready to take on publishing the book.

When all your plans go to pot…

The derailment of plans and good intentions. It happens. Even after completing 29 of my 30 items on my original 30×30 list and creating and beginning the Next List, I still find myself getting derailed and disappointed. After taking on the self-imposed 30 day blog challenge to fall back in love with the list I seemed to have found a second wind to get crackin’ on the new Next List. During the blog challenge, not only did I create and pen the items on the Next List, I’ve been able to knock out a few fun things here and there, which has been quite encouraging.  So far I’ve crossed off 7+ of the new items on the Next List…and it’s been less than two months! People have been sending in their own lists, which I absolutely love! I even saw some light and movement on the book publishing front. Woo hoo! That my friends, is progress. And progress feels good.

But then in the course of one week there were a couple of setbacks that took me by surprise. Both on some upcoming plans for the Next List and on the headway made in moving forward with the book. One step forward and two steps back. Just when I think things are opening up–boom. Doors slam. Guess I need to start knocking on other doors.

A couple weeks ago I pulled the trigger and made plans to cross off “East Coast Fall” off the Next List, lining up a much needed trip with possibilities to cross off multiple Next List items all in this one trip. How can you not be excited about that? The plan was to stay with my aunt in DC and check off a few states on some day trips while out there for two weeks, heading up with her to Boston and/or Philadelphia during the weekdays to go see friends. I was excited at the possibility of visiting  and crossing off Delaware, Pennsylvania, Jersey and even good ol’ Massachusetts.  (I’m working on visiting all 50 states–so far I’ve got 30 down and will be on track if I cross off 2-3 a year. Any chance I get to cross another state off the list, I’m in!)

But as life would have it, it looks like my initial plans to play tourist are fading fast. Unbeknownst to me, apparently my aunt and tour guide has obligated and committed herself to dog sit for a high maintenance pooch pretty much the entire time I’m there, which puts the ki-bash on any travel trips and adventures that I had my heart set on. *sigh* Due to some other factors that have changed, I now have lost my connections to stay in Phili and Boston, along with having my wheels and planned mode of transportation yanked. The thought of renting a car and driving solo in an unknown city’s traffic just to cross off items by myself is completely unappealing and makes me scrunch my nose. And if you know anything about my sense of direction and driving skills (or lack thereof), it is not a good idea to turn me loose in any poor unsuspecting city.

Ewwwwww.
Ewwwwww. No thanks.

Look at me. Whining and pouting about something that in the grand scheme of things is not a real problem or worth worrying about. Who wants to hang out with the whiny girl? So I am choosing to make an attitude adjustment. Time to recalculate. Even if this trip is nothing like I originally planned and all I do is sit in a town home with yucka foo foo fido, I will still find a way to enjoy myself and redeem this trip. (Don’t get me wrong, I am a doggie love-ah, but not when one unexpectedly and unnecessarily wrecks my vacation and travel plans.) But I have decided to move past the pity party and am determined to be grateful for the opportunity to wave to our nation’s capitol (even if it is from a distance), and I will be open to whatever twists God has up His sleeve on this one.

When all is said and done, maybe this disappointing turn of events will give me a reason to re-visit someday and try again. Can’t complain about that.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I: 

Bonus Blog 4: I’m the reason GPS was invented

I am the reason GPS was invented.

As a thoroughly directionally challenged person, I am the reason why GPS was invented. It’s comical really. Whether driving or walking the streets of downtown, it’s not hard for me to get turned around. I’ve been in the middle of a city and had friends ask me which way back to the hotel, and when I point, they laugh in my face and start going the opposite direction. It’s that bad. I’ve come to realize that it’s just the way God made me and something I’ve learned to live with…and laugh at. I may have many talents and giftings, but I am missing the internal compass that I envy in so many others. I just want to hug and say thank you to the person that invented maps and GPS. The satellites in the sky know just how to boss me around and point me in the right direction, even when I make a wrong turn. Gotta love that recalculate button.

Really.

Although I am admittedly directionally disabled in that realm, I’ve always striven to be on the ball and put together going in the right direction in other areas of my life. Little miss goodie two-shoes always has a plan. Graduating from college suma cum laude and departmental scholar in the honor’s program, working for a fortune 500 company at age 23, starting my own business at 29, completing 29 of the 30 things on the 30×30 list, throw in four degrees and financial independence from the parental units for over a decade and I thought I was on track. Sounds good right?  Don’t pat me on the back or be impressed just yet.

Thanks--I need all the help I can get
Thanks–I need all the help I can get

One of the many takeaway gems I learned through my 30×30 list is the importance of being able to change directions and handle the detours. Life is full of things that can derail us from the original intended direction we were heading. Divorce, job loss, loss of a loved one, financial setbacks, natural disasters, loss of a home, health problems, disease, a miscarriage or loss of a child, a bad break-up and so many other things can knock the wind out from us and stop us in our tracks. Maybe some things are within our control and consequences of choices we make while others are not. Either way, life happens. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

But when it does, the real question is how do we handle it? How do we even begin to pick up the pieces of something so dearly shattered?

Six months ago today I got a phone call that did just that. One phone call changed everything. Six months ago today the voice on the other end of the line told me that they found my boyfriend dead in his own home. Nothing can ever erase the memories of that day. No amount of tears covers that kind of loss.  I was left without a goodbye and without answers. Those are the kind of days that change your course of direction.  Those are the kind of days that scatter pieces of your heart in every direction leaving you with the choice and decisions of how to gather them up and put them back together. Some people never do.

But there is hope and there is life after those kind of days. Most often it’s found literally one day at a time. And over time the wound begins to heal–and that is a process with its own kind of pain. Sometimes God answers our questions, but most often He keeps His mysteries closed. I am not smart enough to understand the why behind “those days,” at least not on this side of heaven. But I know that good can come out of any circumstance. Any circumstance. And it is in the pressing on and pressing forward that strength is built. And strength is needed to change directions. Sometimes a lot of strength.  Sometimes more strength than what we have. It takes strength and God’s grace to alter one’s course. But I have learned it is in the very movement and action of changing course that can make all the difference. That’s probably why I loved my 30×30 list and love my  Next List even more–it’s like a map that keeps me focused on where I want to head, yet can be changed and altered according to the needs of the map holder. Just like in real life I can get turned around and confused and need direction from above. But I can set it down and take a breather from the journey when rest and recalculation is needed and then pick it back up and get back on course later on.

Yep, I want to hug the person that invented maps and GPS. Without them I’d be lost.

Bonus Blog #3: At Some Point It’s Time to Put My Big Girl Pants On

At Some Point It’s Time to Put My Big Girl Pants On

When people ask me about what was on my list, the first things I rattle off tend to be some of my travel adventures. Swimming with dolphins, rafting the Grand Canyon, or being a jet setter and flying somewhere and back in one day just because I can. But what doesn’t usually come up in conversation are what I call my “non-sexy” items. The one’s on the list that are like vegetables–they’re good for me and I know they’ll make me stronger, but they don’t always taste good or are as much fun to talk about. So today I’m talking about finances.

On the original 30×30 list were a lot of travel items and adrenaline experiences, and honestly I could’ve decided to whip out a credit card and get almost all of them done in 3 months. That was one option. Not a good one though. Also on the list I had decided to put “be debt free.” Uh oh, now I was really in trouble. How on earth was I going to accomplish my 30×30 list (with some very expensive dreams) and also become debt free at the same time? Honestly, I couldn’t. But God could. I submitted my 30×30 list in prayer and asked for His help and wisdom in this whole process. I figured if He was the one giving me the dreams, He would be the one to give me the tools, wisdom, and resources to be able to do them…in His order and in His timing. And He did!

Boo
Boo

Setting out to pay off my credit cards and school loans was something that I wanted to accomplish but not something I was looking forward to actually doing. I sat down one morning with a spreadsheet and an internet connection and looked up what I owed on each loan and each credit card, and then used online calculators to determine various payments and payoff dates. I did not like staring those big numbers in the face. But if I didn’t know where I was currently at, how would I know how far I had to go? At the time I had a car loan, student loans from my bachelor’s degree, and about $3,500 in credit card debt. I first calculated how much extra it would be each month in order to pay off my car loan a year early. Surprisingly, it was only an extra $55 a month. Then I decided that a percentage of every extra bonus I received from work would go towards my other debt. To keep myself on track, every quarter I labeled the various debts and totaled them into “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter.”  I would revisit that spreadsheet and update it with the new amounts every 3 months so I could see the progress I was making. The first time I was able to label a column “paid in full” I thought I was going to fly to the moon. There were many more columns to attack, but this kept me motivated to continue with my game plan. Some quarters were better than others, but by the time I was 27 years old I was completely debt free and had opened a 401K to boot. Not bad for a twenty-something little girl.

I remember how liberating and freeing it was to make that final payment. This lined me up to be able to accomplish some of the bigger ticket items on my list. I had a personal party and took myself to the nail salon to celebrate. I was officially debt free! Sadly, I was debt free and got to enjoy it for only 20 days. I decided to go back to school and get my master’s degree and signed the paperwork for my school loans less than three weeks after making my final payment. It wasn’t exactly how I had pictured it, but it was time to put my big girl pants on. By paying off my bachelor’s loan, my car, and all my credit cards I had lined myself up to be able to go back to school and get a master’s degree (one of the hairy scary goals on my 30×30 list.)

So was I surprised that I put “be debt free/pay off car & school loans” back on this next list? No. I don’t believe we’re meant to live in the bondage of debt. It causes stress, can hinder relationships, and can limit you from going and doing other things in your future. Admittedly I felt kind of dumb for getting in debt again and needing to put “pay off loans” on the list one more time.  If I can do it once, I could do it again. But managing money and being financially responsible is an ongoing thing and a constant work in process. Financial balance and freedom is an ongoing battle. But this debt I had now was different than the debt I had in my 20’s. I had taken it on with prayer and a plan in place, had set up healthy habits and started putting into practice things like automatic savings and tithing.

The thing about life lists is that when you get serious about doing something, set your mind and become determined about allocating your resources (time, energy, finances, prayers, etc), it’s amazing how things begin to line up and fall into place. When we give our plans to God He truly is faithful to give us the desires of our hearts and take care of us…He just usually does it in a way we would never expect. More than likely it won’t ever look like or happen how it’s pictured in your head. And that’s ok! Be determined, be flexible, and give God room to work. Do your part and He’ll do His. It’s a partnership–it takes both you and God. You can’t do His part and He won’t do your part.

A reason to smile
A reason to smile

Two weeks ago I made the final payment on my car and received the title in the mail yesterday (the big girl car that was on my 30×30 list). And yesterday I went online and made the final payment on my school loans from my master’s program (MBA–also on my original 30×30 list). Busting out the calculator I added up over $90,000+ in loans for the 3 cars and 3 degrees I bit off and had taken on over the last decade. That’s not including all the travel, rent, and daily expenses of living on my own in southern California for seven years. I may have taken on all that debt on my own, but I certainly didn’t get out on my own. Praise God–yesterday I paid it all off…again! It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t sexy. There have been a lot of bumps and derailments along the way,  but I decided to be debt free and to owe no man anything but love. *smiling* Now THAT is a good feeling. I have not only put my big girl pants on, but for the first time they actually feel like they fit.

Quotable Quotes From People Much Smarter Than I:

Bonus Blog 2: Crossed another one off the list!

Question: Ever put things on your daily to-do list that you’ve already done? I know it’s cheating, but I do that. Probably more often than I should. If I’ve taken out the trash, I will mark it on my daily list just so I can cross it off. It’s satisfying. There’s something motivating about looking at a to-do list that has some to-do’s already done.

I also find that there are some things on the next list that fall into the “just because I can” category. Things that aren’t necessarily difficult or have a significant reason behind them but earned a place on the list because I do actually want to do them at some point and for some reason just haven’t. Like visit Durango, Colorado.

Durango, Colorado
Durango, Colorado

Durango is a cute little mountain college town with main street shopping and an overall great little getaway. Durango is only 99 miles from where I live. So why haven’t I been there since I was 12? I don’t know. No particular reason. Why did it make the next list? Because it would be just silly for me not to go and enjoy this adorable mountain town while it is so close and easily accessible. I don’t know the future and I don’t know how long I’ll be graced living in this particular area, but while I’m here I’d like to keep a tourist mindset and enjoy all the perks this area has to offer.

That was actually part of the mentality in birthing the original 30×30 list years ago. I was miserable and this close to pulling the trigger to move out of California when I asked myself, “What would I regret not doing while I had the opportunity and proximity to do so?” As I penned those items the list quickly grew to things that weren’t just California based, but to what I really wanted to do overall. And then I capped it with a deadline to do those things before turning 30. I’m the kind of girl that can procrastinate with the best of ’em–I need deadlines. It worked…I crossed off 29 of those 30 items!

So yesterday as I was running errands in Pagosa Springs (the next town over, just over Wolf Creek pass), I sat in my car while waiting at the bank and looked at the clock. I was already halfway to Durango, do I do it? *evil grin* Yes.

So I did. I pumped up the tunes and cruised the remaining 50 miles and found myself parking along Durango’s main street. As I walked up and down the street with my iced chai tea, I paused as I saw the old time photo shop. I smiled as I remembered being 12 years old and dressing up in pioneer style and posing for a funny family photo. We traveled often with another family and I remember having so much fun on that vacation in Durango. Good times. Did I plan on going to Durango by myself when I put it on the next list? Absolutely not. But I had an absolutely fantastic random afternoon crossing off an item on my list…just because I can.

Bonus Blog 1: Continuing the cross-off…

It’s time to celebrate in my world. Yesterday the 30 day self-imposed blog challenge was completed, which was a big win in and of itself, but that’s not the only reason to smile and do the dance of joy. Today I crossed off an item on the next list–one that I thought would take awhile to do due to the nature and difficulty of the endeavor. No, not hiking a fourteener (I attempted that the day before and failed. Big bust. More to come on that amusing story later.) Today is about Wheeler.

Wheeler Geologic Area - Near South Fork, CO
Wheeler Geologic Area – Near South Fork, CO

Wheeler Geologic Area. This natural wonder of rugged terrain and beautiful geologic formations is hidden in the 1.86 million-acres of the Rio Grande National Forest and is only accessed through 28 miles on a difficult to expert level ATV 4×4 trail or a 14 mile hike. For the past 1 1/2 years I’ve lived in Southern Colorado just minutes from the highway turnoff to Pool Table and Hanson’s Mill–the access trails that lead to the trailhead–and I just couldn’t quite seem to ever make it happen. Wheeler Geologic Area has called my name and beckoned to me and yet at the same time eluded and evaded me, somehow remaining just out of reach. Until today.

Let me take a second to brag on God and the mysterious way He sometimes works. For the last 1 1/2 years my office at the South Fork Visitor Center flooded with tourists who I’ve pointed in various directions, telling them where to go to enjoy the best parts of the area. Ironically some of the very places I would send people with such authority and confidence I had actually never been. Wheeler in particular. I have an unofficial list of places I want to visit and experience in the area while I have the opportunity and geographic incentive to do so–a secret list. Although not everything I want to do has made the official “next list,” Wheeler was a big enough gem to officially make #25. But I don’t own an ATV or know of very many people that are physically capable or willing to hike 14 miles on a whim.

So imagine my surprise just one day after miserably failing in the attempt to hike a fourteener (#26 on the list) of getting a 7:00am phone call with an opportunity to go to Wheeler that day. The local ATV group (aptly named the Silverthreaders Outdoor Club with most members of the retiree 65+ variety) was heading out at 9:00am and one of the riders had an extra seat! Whaaaaaaaaat? After almost two years of trying to beg, borrow, bully, and bribe my way to Wheeler I had an immediate and surprise invitation to go in less than two hours. I love it when God opens doors!

Two hours later as I sat on the back of a roaring and rumbling ATV trekking the 28 miles to the coveted destination, I had to laugh. When I put Wheeler on the list I had envisioned hiking in and experiencing this wonderment with a group of good friends, celebrating our athletic journey and determination–maybe even on a camping trip with s’mores and stars and good beer. Instead I found myself sharing the adventure with a group of generous and well-seasoned outdoor lovers with more wrinkles, grey hair, and good stories than an AARP convention. Today’s reality was completely different than the vision I had in my head when putting it on the list. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

It reminded me of the lesson I learned when completing #29 on my 30×30 list…hot air ballooning. As a twenty-something putting “hot air balloon ride” on the list I had envisioned more of a romantic experience with a special someone, maybe in wine country or an exotic vacation location, and not what really happened.

For the hot air balloon experience I had always envisioned an incredibly romantic date with champagne and kisses and lots of bright colors and flames. (Can you tell I’m a hopeless romantic?) Reality was, at the time I was just months away from turning the big 3-0 and so stinkin’ close to crossing off the final items on the list, but had chosen to enter back into singlehood with no special someone to fulfill  the romantic balloon dream in my head. (That’s a whole other story.)

I had a decision to make. Was I just going to let that item slip by because in my dreams I had hoped someone would surprise me with it? Was I willing to risk not crossing off one of the very last items on the 30×30 list that I had been working on for years just because it wouldn’t be how I envisioned it when I penned the idea years ago?

I had to make a decision. I could wish and hope for someone to plan my balloon adventure and run the risk of being disappointed when it didn’t happen, or I could choose to face the current disappointment of doing it differently than how I originally imagined. Face it, there are things within our control that we have the power to manipulate and change, and there are things that are out of our realm of influence and we just have to make do with what we have been given. I realized that I had been given an incredibly fabulous set of friends who had enjoyed the 30×30 journey with me and had been extremely supportive throughout the years—why would I not want to include them in one of the last items on my list? No doubt some of them had lived their dreams vicariously through me as they encouraged me to keep ticking them off the list. Why would I want to disappoint them by giving up on the last item and not finishing what they helped me start? I had wanted the balloon ride to be a special, romantic, and a private moment when in reality I had the power to make it a memorable event to share with lots of people I cared about.

As I kept thinking about it the more I got excited. I had the power to turn a disappointment into a celebration. It was then I decided for my 30th birthday I wanted to celebrate it with all my friends in a hot air balloon. Why stop there? Why just make it about me when we could celebrate the birthdays of all my friends who were also born in the Fall? We could all have a big balloon for our birthdays! To my surprise, as the save the dates went out an overwhelming response of support flooded back in. There were people who had no intention of going up in a balloon themselves but wanted to come anyways and help celebrate with both feet firmly planted on the ground. I lovingly nicknamed our non-flyers “cooler jockeys.” One friend said she was so excited to help cross off one of the last 30×30 items and she couldn’t wait to find out what was on my next list! And so what began as a rather disappointing goal started turning into an opportunity to not only celebrate the end of an era with loved ones, but to literally look towards the sky and kick off the next set of adventures, along with the next decade! Yes, we even made t-shirts.

A fellow 30x30 balloon participant...and fall birthday baby
A fellow 30×30 balloon participant…and fall birthday baby
30x30 hot air balloon celebration
30×30 hot air balloon celebration
30x30 Celebration T-shirts
30×30 Celebration T-shirts

So today I sat on the back of an ATV for 28 miles crossing off a much desired item on my list in a not-so-desired way and couldn’t help but laugh. Had I not learned my lesson from my balloon experience? It won’t always look like the picture in my head. Again, it won’t always look like the picture in my head. I thought that I learned long ago that God will fulfill the desires of my heart…but it doesn’t mean that He’ll do it like how I pictured. Actually, more often than not He won’t. God is way too big and way too amazing to be put in a box and limited to my small imagination. Maybe one day I’ll finally learn that for good.

Waving to Wheeler
Waving to Wheeler
Fellow Wheeler participant
Fellow Wheeler participant
Cow parade on the way to Wheeler
Cow parade on the way to Wheeler
Wonderful Wheeler Participants
Wonderful Wheeler Participants28 miles on one of these

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 30: Navigating through the fog…

Thirty-one days ago I took on a self-imposed 30 day blog challenge to get moving in the right direction on finishing the unfinished project of writing a book on my 30×30 experience started years ago. It all began with a bad attitude in a California coffee shop, turned into a list of 30 things I set out to do before turning 30, and ended with 29 of the 30 items being checked off…and one very happy, very blessed girl. Fast forward two years later and I was in a fog on where to go next–both on the book and on the next chapter in my life adventures. Stuck and not knowing exactly how to move forward on the 30,000 word book monster, I was inspired by a friend who had taken on the 30 day blog challenge and thought I’d join the ranks of those who blog. Thirty-one days later, it’s time to take a brief look back over this online journey.

Let’s see–several stories were told about memories and lessons of items on the completed 30×30 list, along with a few painful flashbacks, followed with some personal victories and wins in my current situation, and finishing with some admitted challenges along the way. Throughout the last thirty-one days of this blog challenge my next list grew from ideas in my head, to eight items written on a sheet of paper, to thirty-four items publicly posted in the blog…and it’s still growing. This is a really  big win. So how does that work into the ultimate goal of falling back in love with writing and finishing the 30,000 word book monster? It’s currently off to an editor for round one editing and I have a standing appointment on the calendar in September to discuss the next steps in the editing process…and there’s currently talks in the works for the book cover. I do however still need to connect and follow up with some other bookie items and contacts that I’ve been avoiding and procrastinating on. That will come. But more than anything, I am closer to the overall goal than I was thirty-one days ago. That is a big win.

Interestingly, I headed out to walk the pooch the other morning and found myself in the most beautiful cloud of fog that engulfed the canyon that I walk almost every morning. Everything but the steps right in front of me remained hidden. The cliffs, the river, the familiar pastures  and fence lines that I know are there, and even the road ahead. I smiled as I realized that sometimes in life when the fog settles in you can lose sight of the big picture and what’s ahead. This is not always a bad thing. There are times when it’s okay to slow down and focus just on the steps in front of you and not necessarily on the distance you need to go. Sometimes you need to stop altogether and dig your heels in just not to lose any ground. This is the time to breathe deep. Eventually the fog will lift. It always does.

The foggy view

I realized I was in a fog with my book project. I had been too concerned with the big picture and all that needed to happen that I was distracted with the overall view and the end result. The “I don’t know what to do” fog forced me to slow down and focus on the smaller tasks right ahead. It’s okay to feel lost and a bit disoriented, but all will right itself when the fog lifts. And the fog will lift. Fog is always temporary. When it does eventually lift, it usually leaves things refreshed, hydrated, and glistening when the sun comes out.

I look forward to the sun coming out and shining on this project. Keep checking in to find out how it’s all coming along. This isn’t just about the 30,000 word book monster anymore. This is about the next list and the journey of progress towards shaping the next chapter. Cheers to the next list, the next chapter, and all that goes with it!

Day 29: Authenticity and the real deal

Those with a good eye may or may not have noticed the absence of a posting yesterday. This was on purpose, sort of. With two postings left to do in this 30 day blog challenge there seems to be the need to finish strong and have the last official postings be profound and full of wisdom. I had no wisdom yesterday.

Not exactly sure I have any today, but I’m willing to take a stab at it. I sat at my keyboard last night ready to post something just to be able to say I did and to “complete the challenge.” And then I stopped. There are times that this really has been a challenge. Opening up about personal experiences and private thoughts is not an easy thing for me. Posting them on the internet for anyone and everyone is even harder. I didn’t know what I was doing when I started but I knew I had to start somewhere. Then I realized that there are times in life when you have to start somewhere and boldly move forward and to do something just to get started. Sometimes that’s what’s needed to become unfrozen and to take that first step, otherwise we’ll never take it and we’ll never move forward.

And then there are other times to take a step back, take time to pause, and to carefully and with purpose process and negotiate the next steps. This can loosely be called planning and forethought. Some things need to be handled with care and with thought, moving rashly or quickly just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t seem right.

So last night I went to bed without a blog post on the official day 29. I could’ve chosen to complete this self-imposed 30 day blog challenge flawlessly with technically no hiccups in the days. Could have. Probably would’ve felt better if I had (my ego could’ve used a little pat on the back). But I would have known that it really wasn’t flawless–I would’ve known that my heart wasn’t in it and that I was just going through the motions. Honestly, I think you would’ve felt it and known it too, and that’s not fair to those reading this.

Looking back at my original 30×30 list I can tell that there are items on there that fell in that first get-it-done and just-do-it categories, and then there were the items on the list that needed a little more TLC and effort behind them. Some items took a lot of effort and planning and time. More than anything it’s about balance. Sliding too far on one end of the spectrum or another can be detrimental if not downright dangerous. The good news is that I care enough to notice and have the abilities to make corrections and tweaks where needed. And when it comes to the next list, this blog, and finishing the 30,000 word book monster…I care. They’re worth it.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I: 

Day 28: If I should die before I wake….

Not everything on my list is “fun.” A few items on the 30×30 list actually weren’t enjoyable at all. Like creating a will/living trust and paying off my credit cards and bachelor loans. Yucka yucka. Skydiving and swimming with dolphins are way more exciting, why would I put things on the list that I really didn’t want to do? Because the benefit of doing them far outweighs the yucka feelings that go with them. That’s called growth.

I remember sitting in the lawyer’s office practically in tears as I had to sign paperwork and make decisions having to do with my death. Depressing doesn’t even begin to describe it. Who really wants to think about death, let alone their own death? There I was, a twenty-something planning my own funeral arrangements and last wishes. It felt so unnatural. Why was I doing this? It wasn’t like I had a lot of assets at such a young age. Because I loved my family enough to fight through the hard stuff in order for them not to have to later on. If I didn’t choose to be the big girl now and deal with the ugly, it would hurt those I love later on. This was no one else’s responsibility but my own.  I could choose to tackle it or I could choose to procrastinate and avoid it. By putting those items on the list I forced myself to face them.

My list was a better list because of it. I was better because of it.

There were side effects to the 30×30 list and what I put on it. As the 30×30 list became a bigger and bigger part of my life, I noticed the effects went far beyond just me. When I sent my own documents to my family, it forced them to look at some of the tough stuff they’d been avoiding too. My parents, who hadn’t adjusted their will since my sister and I were toddlers, finally updated their documents too. (It was really funny to be in my mid-twenties and still being willed off to my eighty-something grandma should anything happen.) It’s not the kind of thing you think about on a daily basis. It’s not the kind of thing you want to think about at all. But just like eating veggies, it’s good for you and makes you stronger. You have to train yourself to be able to handle the tough stuff. The consequences of avoidance and not doing so are far more painful than the temporary discomfort of going through it.

These are the type of items I call the “non-sexy” items. Skydiving and dolphins–exiting, fun and sexy. Death and wills–definitely not sexy. Running a marathon and crossing the finish line–sexy. Going to 6:30am Saturday practices and choking down Gu packets, not sexy. At all.  But if there’s going to be balance and there’s going to be growth and health, there’s going to be both. There’s freedom in tackling the tough stuff. Who doesn’t want to feel freedom? Unfortunately, freedom isn’t free. We have to be willing to pay the price to get it.

More than anything, it’s my list and I am in control of it.  At the end of the day I will be better for it if I recognize and face the tough stuff head on. And when I do…it’s okay to celebrate! And who knows? Maybe there will be good side effects and it’ll help someone else out along the way.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 27: Blankety blank blank

Not a great day. Not so much. Bad days happen. I’m allowed. Instead of blogging and talking on and on about junk or all the yucky feelings swirling about, I’d rather shut my mouth and leave it at this…this bad day is temporary. I will not feed it with words. It is not welcome and the black cloud must leave. In the words of my mamma, “If you can’t say something nice than don’t say anything at all.” This is me bowing out for the moment and not saying anything at all. Ciao for now. I’m out.

Day 26: Run, walk, limp or crawl to the finish line…

Four more days until I cross the finish line of this 30 day blog challenge! I know you can’t see it, but I just did the dance of joy. It’s exciting when you get to a point of being so close to finishing a goal or something you’ve worked hard on. Pretty sure that’s how I became addicted to running and completed a full marathon and three half marathons in one year.

I lied. Truth be told I have never been addicted to running. I don’t even like it. At all. Still don’t. But that feeling and the rush of crossing the finish line is what is addicting, and in 2007 I begrudgingly caught the running bug. After being relocated in California for the third time for a job and a promotion, I had to start all over again as the new girl in a new city. I was struggling. Pretty sure my friends were tired of my complaining, as evidenced when one of them got sick of it and asked me if I had thought about joining a running club and training for a marathon. Funny girl. I had never run more than 2 miles in my entire life, so the possibility of running 26.2 miles was far beyond comprehension.

She’s a good friend and quite convincing. Before I knew it I had signed up to join a running team and was going to make the attempt to train for a full marathon through Team in Training–an organization that fundraises for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by training people to run or walk long distance events. Twenty-six point two miles…yeah, I’d call that long distance.

She thought it would be fun to challenge me to train out here in California while she trained back in Colorado, and then pick a race to run together. Not only would it be a healthy and stress-relieving activity, but it would also link me to a group of other active individuals with similar passions while being a part of a bigger picture and promoting a great cause. Sounded like a good plan. One problem, I hated running and had never run more than two miles in my entire life!  It’s not that I wasn’t athletic or pathetically out of shape, I just hated running. I admire people who do it, but I personally found it excruciatingly painful and boring. Apparently this meant nothing to my dear friend in Colorado because she signed me up to go to an information meeting at my local library that following Saturday, and sent me the address and meeting time. I got the hint.

Unsure of exactly what I was committing myself to, I took the challenge. When I told my family that I was going to run a 26.2 mile marathon and fundraise over $3,500 in five months to benefit blood cancers, they practically laughed in my face and patted me on the head. It’s not so much that they were unsupportive as much as they knew how much I hated running, let alone running 26.2 miles. But this organization and program was designed to help people just like me to do exactly that, begin a goal with no experience from ground zero. The coaches and mentors gave advice from what kind of shoes and athletic wear to buy to what to eat.  They even organized us into pace groups and gave us tailored training schedules so we would be with other people of the same skill levels. And to my surprise, there were people as slow and even slower than I was and having just as much fun. We met twice a week for training workouts that built up our endurance in slow and manageable increments, as well as gave us tools and tips for successful fundraising to meet our financial goals while at the same time hitting our fitness goals. Want to talk about commitment? Four months of 6:30am practice runs every Saturday. That’s commitment.

When I joined the running team I didn’t know anyone who had ever completed a full marathon, and now I was surrounded by people who were training to do just that! Each week after our Saturday workouts I would call my family back in Colorado and tell them how many miles I ran that morning and what it was like. They’re skepticism eventually turned into cheerleading as I entered into  the fitness level of being able to run double digits. The day that I ran ten miles I thought to myself, “It really looks like I might go through with this!” Although I don’t think anyone really believed me until I actually crossed the finish line and had the picture to prove it.

On January 7, 2007 my Colorado friend and I met in Orlando, Florida and crossed the finish line at the Disney World Marathon with our arms in the air, sweat in our eyes, and smiles on our faces. We were joined at the finish line by her husband, a friend who flew in to support us, and another of my Colorado friends who trained through Team and Training and ran the Disney  ½ marathon the day before. A first for all of us. I caught the race bug and ended up running four more races that year.

Crossing that finish line after 26.2 miles shifted something in me. Through that experience I learned several things: 1)  that it is possible to set big, hairy, audacious goals; 2) that I need the help of others to achieve them and I can’t do it all on my own;  3) that there is planning and preparation involved in order to achieve success and the desired results; 4) and that there will be obstacles to push through and many,  many temptations to quit. And most of all, that the effort is worth it. Running a 26.2 mile marathon is not normal. Less than .02% of the world’s population ever attempts to do it. But I found a group of amazing people who encouraged, motivated, and trained with me to achieve a goal I thought was unachievable. And in meeting my fundraising goal to benefit those with blood cancers I was actually able to help others in the process! Some of my dearest friendships in California came out of this experience. And several other friends have since trained and completed their first marathons as well. They looked at me and figured if I can do it—the very slow anti-runner—then anyone can do it. This one event set me on fire and gave me the momentum to cross off more than twelve items on my 30×30 list over the next two years.

Realizing it's actually going to happen--26.2 or bust baby!
Realizing it’s actually going to happen–26.2 or bust baby!

It’s okay to set goals that seem impossible. In fact, I dare you. And the best feeling is when  you reach the point where you’re almost there. Ok, the best feeling is actually crossing the finish line, but there is a magic moment and a tipping point when you realize how hard you’ve worked and that you are almost there and are going to make it. Don’t quit. And if you have, re-start. You may be just around the corner from the finish line. Crossing the finish line is worth all the sweat, tears, pain, and effort…it is.

Run towards your finish line even if you can’t see it yet. Don’t let it elude you. It’s there. Go get it.

Yep, we started in the dark.
Yep, we started in the dark. The short one, she’s the culprit–I blame her.
The beginning of the 26.2 mile journey...
The beginning of the 26.2 mile journey…
The hardest I've ever worked for a kiss!
The hardest I’ve ever worked for a kiss!

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 25: The wedding march

When I originally created my 30×30 list several years ago, I almost put “get married” on the list. Almost. A happy, healthy, long-term relationship–sounds like a normal thing for a twenty-something girl to want, right? So why isn’t it on the list? If it’s something I want someday in my future then that seems like a natural thing to put on the list, right? But as I thought about it, I wanted to put things on my list that were within my realm of control and my sphere of influence. I didn’t want to limit something so monumental and life-changing to a number and a check on the to-do list. Why would I want to set a deadline that would put undue and undeserved pressure on something that I was only 50% part of the equation? Getting married is not a “to-do” item. That is a season of life all its own that will come naturally and in its own time. Who am I to put a deadline on that?

There have been two times in my life that I have had to make some tough decisions regarding entering into that commitment and that season of life, and twice I chose not to. If it’s not right, it’s not right. It seems more acceptable to have been married and divorced at this age than to not have married at all. I don’t generally get accolades for choosing to not enter into something that wasn’t right and for not being a divorce statistic…typically no bravos for making good choices up to this point. Sometimes it takes more strength to walk away than to stay. Too many people get married just to get married, forcing something that deep down they know better. They do it because they think that’s what’s expected of them, or because that’s what’s supposed to be next, they don’t think there’s anyone better, or because they’re afraid to be alone. There are a lot of reasons why people get married, not everyone does it for the right reasons. We’ve all seen it. Heartbreaking.

I’m sure there are some people reading this right now that might admit to themselves, “That’s me, I’m in that category.” Refusing to settle for “right now” is not anti-marriage or being too picky…it’s being strong enough to know where you’re at and being stable enough to be selective about who is in the seat next to you throughout life’s journey. Choose poorly and the journey is going to be an extremely rough one.

So I left that little item off my list on purpose, and I am so glad I did. There is a spontaneous streak in me that can be dangerous at times.  I know this about myself. In order to avoid panicking and the temptation to do something rash–like wake up in Vegas or order a mail-order groom—I decided instead to leave that particular life’s desire off the official list and leave my heart up to my Maker and his timing…and not Vegas or the mailman. But just because I purposefully chose to take the pressure off myself and be released from that numerical deadline doesn’t mean everyone else is okay with my decision.

I’ve noticed that my singlehood can make people uncomfortable. They want to “figure it out.” I’ve even had a co-worker sincerely ask “Why hasn’t anyone scooped you up yet?” True story. Try answering that one. The look on his face and his puzzled expression was priceless. There’s this weird and unspoken underlying expectation in society that if I’m to be considered normal, by the time I turn 30 I’m to get a degree, get a career, get a car, get a husband, get kids, get a house and oh, by the way, look and feel the best in my entire life. Is anybody else’s head spinning from the pressure? What happens if all that doesn’t happen in that short ten year time frame? Ten years seems like such a wee amount of time to fit so many momentous things if I have over 80+ years to live. What if I don’t have all those things or do all those things in my twenties, am I a failure? I may want them or desire to someday have them, but if they don’t happen in the allotted time frame of my twenties, is there something wrong with me or did I not do something right? With all the amazing things and blessings I’ve experienced  in my life, why am I judged on that one thing?

Not everyone meets that special someone in college or within the first five years after high school. If you did and that’s your story, congratulations! I love my friends who did and I have had the honor of standing in many a wedding celebrating their next chapter. But if you didn’t find that special someone early on and you’re still waiting, trust me, you’re not the only one. God has an individual plan for each and every one of us and it does not look the same or like any body else’s personalized plan.

Growing up my mom used to smile at me and say, “You certainly break the mold!” I’ve heard this more times than I can count. I don’t know if I break any molds, but I certainly don’t fit into one. My story is not the standard stereotypical story. It never has been. Honestly, I would probably be disappointed if it were. Just because I’m okay and have peace with the twists and turns in my journey does not mean everyone else is.

People can get weird about this. Sometimes I dread the standard introductory questions when first meeting new people because I don’t have a standard introductory answer that’s comfortable. And since I work with the public, it happens a lot. “Are you married?” seems to surface almost every time. My standard answer usually falls somewhere along the lines of, “Not that I know of,” complete with a smile and a giggle to match theirs. Often times I can see it run across their face even if they don’t say the words. “Why not?” I can see them sizing me up, internally asking themselves “I wonder what’s wrong with her. She looks normal. Seems like a good catch. Pity.” This is not in my head. I’ve actually had a gentlman in a coffee shop sit down next to me and say that very thing after less than three minutes of conversation. No joke. I’ve also had a perfect stranger ask me if I’m gay right after asking me if I was married. People need to put me in a box, they need a label. I can’t blame them, they just don’t understand. I’ve become quite excellent at changing subjects.

Leaving that off the 30×30 list was intentional. Putting “a marriage more beautiful than the wedding” on the next list was too. God blessed me with the inspiration of the 30×30 list and then equipped me to accomplish 29 of the 30 items. (For more on the one thing that didn’t happen, see my previous post.) He’s even more involved with this Next List, because I’ve asked Him to be. As I create the Next List, I have a new trust and faith that I didn’t have before.

Will there be items on this Next List that are unanswered prayers? Maybe. But that’s a risk I’m going to need to be willing to take. Timing is everything and I trust that my steps are ordered and that God will keep me moving in the right direction. He’s got this whole thing covered. Eventually that direction will be down an aisle and into a happy, healthy relationship, but until that day comes I have a lot of other fabulous goals and adventures to keep me engaged until then. When it comes to the man in my life, I know he’s worth the wait. Extraordinary takes time. And if somehow he’s reading these words right now, he’s probably smiling. Cheers to the next list and all that comes with it!

Day 24: The creepy part of traveling…

Noticing that the next list is heavily weighted in the travel department, I just can’t get away from the fact that I am a travel junkie. I admit it. I am. Whether it’s a long passport-sized trip or a quick adventure four towns over, I thoroughly enjoy traveling. Bitten by the travel bug long ago I just can’t help myself. I’m completely addicted and have zero desire to quit.

Traveling alone.

Somehow I’ve always been connected to the travel industry. Straight out of college I worked for an internet marketing company specifically devoted to lodging and bed & breakfast websites. Working for Coors I traveled all over the country, and even more so working for an event management company several years after that. I remember when there was a four month period when I didn’t sleep in the same bed for more than 5 nights at a time. I also remember counting up on my calendar in the month of September sleeping in my own bed 7 nights that month. Yowser. Really, what do you expect from someone who had “fly somewhere and back in one day” on the list? Don’t worry, that one’s been checked off.

I was totally that girl.

Things have slowed down considerably since then, but with my connections to a certain bed & breakfast in Southern Colorado, I now get the privilege of witnessing travel habits of other people that roll through. Each couple and each guest bring their own unique spin to the property during the time they’re there. The lodging industry is in itself a whole other world. You can tell a lot about a person or a couple just by their travel habits. How long they stay, who they’re traveling with (if anyone), what type of excursions they go on, if they make their bed or leave it messy, how they store their luggage and toiletries, what type of TV channels they leave on, what type of medications they leave out on the counter, what brands of make-up or toiletries are used, if they tip, and even what’s in the trash can leaves clues to what people are like. It’s fascinating. And kind of creepy. Makes me think twice about what messages I’m sending and how I’m representing myself next time I step into a hotel room.

Even more so on how I maintain and keep my house. I used to think about this all the time when I was traveling so much. There was no way I could leave my apartment messy when I left for a work trip–I hated doing that. My apartment wasn’t a functioning household when I left, unlike most households–no spouse, kids or room mates–so I couldn’t blame anything on them. Bed would be made, dishes done, fridge and counters cleaned and trash out. Partly because I enjoyed coming home to a clean house after a long work trip and the last thing I wanted to do was walk into a pit, and partly because in the back of my mind was the thought of “What if something happened and I didn’t come home–like a plane crash, car accident, or the boogeyman got me–who would be in my house and what will they see? The last thing I want is for police, paramedics, relatives, friends or anyone else discovering what a pig I am. They don’t want that and neither do I.” These are the types of things I think about on long plane rides. Maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t travel as much anymore.

Am I a little bit crazy? Absolutely. But it works for me. I’ve come to terms with a lot of my quirks. Who knows what the future may hold, but as long as I’m able to swing it, I will always enjoy traveling and experiencing the world and the great beyond. Good thing, because over half of what’s on the next list is travel related. I really have a problem. And quite frankly, I have no desire to change.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 23: You are what you eat….and I ate Reese’s Pieces.

While sitting at the drive-in movie theater noshing on candy and vanilla soda, I started thinking about intake. I loved slurping my oversized Sonic soda while curled up in the car, munching on a few Reese’s pieces while tuning into 88.1FM to watch the movie through the bug-splattered windshield. (Mini lesson–make a trip through the car wash if going to the drive-in. It’s worth it.) There’s just something about movies and overpriced theater snacks that are fantastic guilty pleasures and a fun way to enjoy the summer. I don’t go to the movies very often–let alone the drive-in theater–so for me, it’s a treat and usually a good night out.

Intake. Over the course of the evening I started taking note of everything I was ingesting, from the shrimp tacos at dinner to the copious amounts of sugar that goes along with the silver screen. But I didn’t just consume food that night, I also digested multiple media messages through an art show earlier in the evening, movie previews, three hours of Hollywood, several songs on the ride home, and some interesting conversation to boot. All in one evening I consumed food, words, music, media, movies and more. I fed my mouth, my body, my mind and my brain.

The question needs to be asked, what are we feeding ourselves? With the consumption of so many messages coming from all different directions, what is it that we’re consuming? Are the words and the lyrics and the messages I let enter my world shifting me in a positive or a negative direction? This isn’t just a one time thing, these are daily choices. Just like my choice to load up on junk food came with the post-sugar crash (and boy did it), my choices in what and how I consume other things come with their own consequences, for better or worse. They can affect my attitude, my perspective, how productive I am, and the way I treat others.

I don’t need a whole lot to test this theory, just a few songs from different playlists in my I-pod ingested on a roadtrip can set the tone for an entire afternoon. Dance party or tears–all it takes is a tune to set the mood.  Just like when I feed my body junk food and I feel junkie afterwards, when I feed my mind junk I will feel equally so. When setting goals–especially big hairy audacious 30×30 type of goals–it’s important to pay attention to what messages you’re feeding yourself. This will play a big part in motivating you as you focus on your goals, whatever they may be. If we are what we eat when it comes to food, what does that mean when it comes to filling our minds?

Now that’s some food for thought.

Feed your brain
Feed your brain

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

“Much more surprising things can happen to anyone who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable, determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place.” ― Frances Hodgson BurnettThe Secret Garden

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” ― Gautama BuddhaThe Dhammapada: The Sayings of the Buddha

The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not. – Mark Twain

The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not. – Mark Twain

The way you think, the way you behave, the way you eat, can influence your life by 30 to 50 years. – Deepak Chopra

Day 22: Make me happy. Your turn.

Happy happy happy. There’s all this talk about being happy. The pursuit of happiness, the happiness project, the happy movie, and on and on and on. And really, who doesn’t want to be happy? Happiness is not a bad thing. We’re wired to want it. We’re built to experience it. But it seems to be so fleeting, so temporary, and sometimes so unattainable.

I had an interesting moment yesterday observing my mom. Little background–she owns and operates a bed & breakfat and the tasks to maintain and keep the place functioning are endless. She has always been a motivated, hard-working, and creative woman who has never been afraid of rolling up her sleeves and tackling a project. These are the characteristics that have lead to the success and transformation of a run-down barn house that had 7 different colors of shag carpeting and 70’s paneling to what is now a beautiful and successful bed & breakfast. I admire her in that respect.

But what I observed yesterday was a woman who fourteen years later has not taken the time to enjoy the very dream she created. Ok, this observation was not just a one-time event that occured yesterday, but a conversation and a confrontation in the laundry room opened my eyes to something that will hang with me for a long time.

I love her with all my heart, but my mom is a “Martha Martyr.” Work for her will never be done. Never. As soon as one project or task is completed, there is no time to enjoy or take it in before the focus is shifted to the next 1,000 tasks. She not only works hard, but she thrives on creating projects and doing them in front of people…and then gets upset and miffed that they aren’t working as hard as she is. No one works as hard as she does. She will not ask for help, will not accept help, but she will be quite upset if help is not offered. This is a woman who will not even take the time to feed herself or feels guilty for stopping to drink a glass of water, which is a rare occurance. She does not sit. Needless to say, my mom is not happy.

But more importantly, she is not at peace. Happiness is a feeling, peace is a state of being and a place where your heart can rest. You can be at peace with something without necessarily being happy with it. Is that really what we’re all seeking after anyways, not happiness but true peace? There is a difference.

Peace comes when we take the time to slow down, take a breath, and listen to what God has for our lives. Both big picture and little details. He’ll be involved with both if we ask Him to. If we are constantly in motion, how on earth are we ever to hear that still small voice that has all the answers? Some of us probably don’t want anything to do with that. And if we don’t slow down, how are we ever going to catch those magic mini-moments that are so special? And then we wonder why we’re not “happy.” I know, I’ve been there. I’ve chased and pursued the things they say are supposed to make us happy. I’ve gotten a lot of them. But the ever elusive happiness factor seems to fade far quicker than it should. Those thoughts of “I’ll be happy when…” or “If I only had XYZ I’d be happy” or “When this happens, then I’ll be happy” are peace killers and joy suckers.

I remember a moment just this past May that has stuck with me in regards to this subject matter of happiness. For one weekend my mom shuts down the B&B and invites friends and family over to work on maintenance projects–think slave labor with lots of good food, sweat and smiles. It must not be all that bad because people keep coming back year after year. It was at this year’s work weekend that my 3-year-old nephew was a part of a secret project to surprise grandma “Lolly” and left his mark and little boy artwork in the newly cemented stone steps. It was precious, she was going to love it. The time came for the big reveal and the entire group was marching across the lawn with 3-year-old Calvin in the lead, chattering away and telling us to “hurry up.” I watched as my mom turned around halfway there and headed back into the house to switch one more load of laundry that just couldn’t wait ten minutes. My heart sank as she later re-emerged and said “Ok, I’m ready. Show me.” But the moment had passed. Everyone had already dispersed and was loading into their cars to go home. She had missed it.

It was that moment that I wondered just how many moments over the years she had missed because something like laundry couldn’t wait. How many moments have I missed? If I dwell on that too long that thought will haunt me. It’s not my job to change her. It’s not my job to judge or criticize her.   Yes, we need to work hard. Yes, we need drive and motivation and focus in order to get things done and accomplished. But we also need balance. We need those little moments. We need to take the time to slow down and take it all in. Because they don’t wait.  Those magical little moments–the ones that make us smile and create the mini moments of happiness–they don’t wait for anyone.

I’m personally asking that as I go throughout my day and do the things and tasks that I need to do that my eyes will be opened and to have a special awareness of those magic mini-moments. I know they’re out there. I don’t want to miss one. Not a single one.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 21: I’m a habitual…

Happy three week anniversary. Three weeks. Twenty-one posts, twenty-one thought bubbles, twenty-one days of writing. It’s been said that it takes 21 days to develop and form a habit, for better or worse. So often we think of habits in terms of “bad habits” or even addictions. But it is the good habits we set in place that break the ties on the bad ones. What I have not highly advertised is that I also decided to invoke a few other challenges during this 30 day time frame involving habits, mostly out of sheer curiosity.

Running in the background of this 30 day blog challenge were goals of doing other things consistently for 30 days, some of which I have stuck to and others…well, not so much. I decided to track some of the little habits that in my mind I thought I had under control or in order, but found out that when actually tracking by tick marks and calendar dates discovered are not all that habitual. Little things, like taking my vitamins, flossing, drinking 60-80 ounces of water daily, and walking. The focus on walking was mostly to set aside time each day to relax and enjoy this wonderful mountain scenery I’m so blessed to live in for the moment–and to get my beefy dog Scottie out and in shape for a trail I want to tackle in a few weeks. The longest walk I’ve taken him on so far is 3 1/2 miles. We’ve got some work to do.

So how am I doing on my various challenges so far? Writing? Check. Walking. Check and check. (Although there was a two day period when I got sick with the Mexican blarney or some type of food poisoning where I was lucky to be able to walk to the park across the street and back. Blech blech.) Water consumption? Some days are better than others depending on my activities, but I’m a water junkie so I didn’t think this one would be that hard. Surprisingly, I wasn’t as consistent as I thought and found myself having to put a little more focus and effort behind raising a glass and not being parched. Vitamins? Ok, this is where I started falling apart. I forgot to pack them on my week-long adventure to Denver, so on that I can’t claim consistency on. And the flossing? I know how often I’m supposed to be doing it, and yet even when I try and make an effort towards it I’m good at avoiding that too. *sigh* Can’t win ’em all.

My point being, we all know the basics of good health and yet when it really comes down to it, how often are we really consistently practicing the good habits that we know to do? Before this little experiment I had in my head that I was better at doing these things than what I really was. Interesting. Good intentions don’t make good habits. As disappointing as it was to discover that part of myself, on a positive note, I do know that by consciously tracking these little habits I have become more aware and eventually more consistent at doing them.

Why put focus behind such little things like this? Because I believe that it is the little things that we do on a daily basis that create the building blocks for the bigger habits that affect us on a larger scale. If we are consistent and diligent on the little things, the bigger things will fall into place and be easier in the long run. Details do make a difference. Little things do matter. A lot.

For me, even something as little as making the bed in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. Something that takes as little as 90 seconds can change the entire demeanor of a room and make me feel like I did something productive to start the day. I laugh because my mom owns and runs a bed & breakfast–I think it’s in my DNA to desire a made bed with a million pillows. It’s been ingrained in me. This is not a habit I have to struggle with, but I do notice that if for some reason it doesn’t get done, something feels “off.” I read somewhere that people who make their bed in the morning tend to be more productive and successful in life. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I’ll take it!

So over the next 30 days I’m choosing to take notice of the little things, the little choices, and the little habits. I’m sure some I will develop and set into concrete as I continue to focus and put effort behind them, others I’m sure will fade into the background as I set other priorities. And that’s what it really boils down to anyways…priorities. When we take a little bit of time to notice where our priorities lie, we can adjust as necessary to start heading in the direction we really want to go. And there are two directions I want to go…positive and forward.

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QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Webster’s Dictionary Definition:

hab·it

1 /ˈhabɪt/ Show Spelled [hab-it] noun

1.) an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary: the habit of looking both ways before crossing the street.
2.) customary practice or use: Daily bathing is an American habit.
3.) a particular practice, custom, or usage: the habit of shaking hands.
4.) a dominant or regular disposition or tendency; prevailing character or quality: She has a habit of looking at the bright side of things.
5.) addiction, especially to narcotics

Day 20: Slap a number on it and call it good…

I like this concept of 30. The 30×30 list in and of itself was challenging and rewarding, but even in applying the number to this blog challenge has been quite entertaining. I have a very different feeling about this blog challenge sitting on day 20 than I did while writing on day 3. At some point during a goal there is a shift from “I wonder if I have what it takes to do this?” or “Is this ever really going to happen?” to “We’re not there yet, but this is really going to happen!”

I’ve noticed a change in my attitude and perspective from the old 30×30 list and the next list. After seeing the blessings and the accomplishments through the experiences of the 30×30 list, the next list seems a lot less intimidating for some reason. What’s different about this list than my last one? Do I have less demanding goals on this next list? Am I not challenging myself enough or taking the easy way out? Actually, those are all the wrong questions.  

I’m a numbers girl, I like being able to set goals and track something. Numbers allow you to do that. Saying, “I want to get healthier” is a far different goal than saying, “I want to reduce my cholesterol by 30 points,” or “I want to drink 80 ounces of water every day for the next twenty days.”  Or another example, saying, “I want to be rich” is harder to define than saying, “I would like $XXX,XXX in the bank by the time I’m age XX.” Defining what rich looks like to you is far more important than just using a generic term to set a goal. (Personally, the term “rich” to me is far more than a dollar sign and includes healthy relationships, peace of mind, fulfilling accomplishments or callings and more. But enough on that.)

I noticed on my next list that I left some items general and some are quite specific. That was on purpose. For example, some travel destinations I just want to check out, fulfill a curiosity, and be able to say I’ve been there–like Lake City or Telluride. Other destinations I have a specific activity in mind that I want to do while I’m there, like photographing Niagara Falls or scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. For me, it’s not enough to just go and get the postcard, but I want to feel the mist, capture the beauty on camera, and experience the sea life of that part of the world. I did this on the 30×30 list too. I didn’t just want to see the Statue of Liberty, I wanted a picture with her. (I owe an apology to my girlfriends–we took 2 ferries and battled fog for half a day in order to check this one off the list. Thanks ladies.)

I have found that while creating this next list the questions that have helped me are more along the lines of  the following:

  • In ten years, what would I look back and regret not doing if given the opportunity to do so?
  • What specifically in my situation do I want to change?
  • What specifically do I want to experience?
  • What am I called to do?
  • How do I fulfill what I’m called to do?
  • What is scary to me?
  • What do I think will never happen?
  • What do I want to tackle right away and what is part of the long-term vision?
  • What am I going to look back and smile about?

The thing is, my list is mine. It’s not going to look like anybody else’s list. Sure, I have similar desires and dreams as a lot of other people, as human beings we’re wired that way. But the specifics are unique to me. And that’s why it’s important to be detailed on some items and to leave other items vague. Some goals I am focused on the “how” where other items need to have flexibility and room to breathe. All have faith involved. Years from now will the final list with dates and checkmarks look anything like the list today? No. But that’s half the fun.

One of the largest lessons I learned from my 30×30 list is what life looks like when we’re drifting vs what life looks like when there are goals and a plan. I don’t like drifting. I don’t mind relaxing or changing course, but I want to know there’s a destination. And what better way to put down on paper (or on a blog) what that destination looks like to you. The biggest lesson learned is that no matter what, learn to enjoy the journey…every step and detour along the way. Cheers to the goals attained, goals already in place, and the goals that are yet to be.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 19: Learning to be happy homeless…

It’s party day. Summer’s winding down and before you know it, it won’t be campfire and s’mores weather anymore. So before the chill really settles into the Southern Colorado hills, it’s time to gather the troops and kick back by the river to celebrate what has thus far been an extremely interesting summer. And now that the fire ban has been lifted and things have settled down since the evacuations earlier this summer, we can finally enjoy stories around the fire pit again. (Relax.  We are pit professionals. It’s 10 feet off the river, has a metal cover, and meets all codes and regulations. We even have a permit. All is well.)

Parties and little shin digs like this are right up my alley. Love them. Who doesn’t like getting good friends together over brisket, coconut cream pie, and a beer or two? I have a new appreciation for mini social occasions like this because not too long ago I couldn’t have any. There was a time when I went over a year of not having anyone over. Very unlike me. Not for dinner, not for drinks, not even to watch a movie. I was on social lockdown.

No, this was not out of depression, a friend shortage, or tightening the budget. This was partially out of necessity and partially by choice. The whole point of moving to the little town of South Fork was to help out with an aging grandmother who, bless her heart, was starting to need more care from my mom than she could give her. It happens, that’s life. If blessed to live that long, we’ll all get there someday. I was just glad I was in a position and had the opportunity to be able to do so.

Little backstory–my parents own and operate a bed & breakfast by the river in a little mountain ski town called South Fork in Southern Colorado, roughly four hours from Denver. About seven years ago they built a little house on the property and moved my Ginnymom there in order for her to be closer as she needed more care. Well into her eighties, she had reached that stage in life that she just needed to be closer, and there she lived for the next several years in what we eventually deemed “the cottage.”

When I was home visiting for the holidays one fall, conversations took place on how things were shifting and it was time to look at other options. After just moving back to Colorado, I just happened to be in a place to be able to be the perfect option.  The goal was to keep her out of a nursing home and with us as long as possible. No in-home care tech here…I was the assisted living. And interestingly enough, there just happened to be a position in my field open and advertised in the local paper when I just happened to be in town for Thanksgiving. I just happened to apply two days before the deadline, just happened to make it through an 8 person panel interview and a rather amusing and rowdy voting session by the town board, and I just happened to get the job as the marketing director for the town. (God’s funny in arranging things like that.) So boom, before I knew it I was the newest (and probably youngest) resident of South Fork living in a cute little cottage by the river with an eighty-eight year old for a roommate. Not exactly where I had pictured myself at this stage in my life.

I look back and I find this situation somewhat amusing. See, of the 30 things on my 30×30 list, there was only one of them I was not able to accomplish…owning a home. I so desperately wanted one. Came close several times, but for one reason or another something would shift or change and it just never happened. Living in California during the whole housing bubble boom and bust, it is a huge blessing in disguise and God-wink that this never happened. It’s true, unanswered prayers sometimes are the best answers after all. But that didn’t stop my “homelessness” from being a touchy subject and something that continued to pull on my heartstrings well after the 30×30 list wrapped up.

Over the last 1 1/2 years I stayed tucked away with Ginnymom in the cottage, getting used to small town life. Admittedly, it took some adjusting. I’ve been financially independent since I was eighteen and had been a twenty-something living on my own in L.A. before my adventures took me to South Fork. Learning to live next door to my parents and I had to learn to live and adjust to an elderly grandmother. She’s a wonderful lady, and although quirky, I am the one who was blessed while taking care of her. I had to remind myself of that every now and then when we became two cranks in a cottage. If I ever needed to get out of small town life, Denver and a myriad of friends were just a car ride away and always waiting to play.

It wasn’t until Ginnymom had a series of strokes this last January that forced the decision to invoke nursing home care that I realized exactly what had happened. Besides the obvious, my life in California was very different than my life in South Fork. Trust me, I knew South Fork wasn’t L.A. when I chose to move there. That was not the shocker. I hadn’t thought much about it until she was no longer in the cottage–but it wasn’t my house, so I hadn’t had anyone over to enjoy it in the entire 1 1/2 years I had been living there. I hadn’t really watched much TV because it wasn’t my TV. I hadn’t had people over for dinner because it wasn’t my kitchen. I may have been living there, but it wasn’t my household–it wasn’t my home. Out of respect for her, I went out when I needed to play. The first time I finally did have friends over to make sushi one night, that’s when it finally hit me how long it had been. Funny how you don’t always recognize the strange until after it’s over.

Even though I’ve physically resided there almost two years this winter and it’s been over 6 months since she made her final departure from the cottage, I still have a hard time having people over. Even though I’m the only one living in the cottage now, in my mind I am still a guest and this is temporary–an absolutely wonderful and enjoyable right-on-the-river-temporary, but still temporary. As much as I love it here, it still doesn’t feel like home. I don’t think I want it to. But I know God placed me here on purpose with a purpose and while I am here I intend to enjoy every minute of it.

So it is with excitement and a smile that I continue to help make preparations for the brisket and bonfire endeavor tonight. Who knows how many more of these we’ll have before I am no longer here and can have them in a house of my own? Owning a home…don’t worry, it’s on the next list. *Big smile*

View from Camp Calvin (bonfire basecamp) Arbor House Inn Bed & Breakfast on the RiverView from the backyard...I cannot complain.

Day 18: Privacy, my friends, is out the window.

Google Privacy

With all that’s been going on in the news regarding the CIA, NSA, Snowden, and companies like Verizon raising eyebrows, it’s hard not to think about today’s notion of privacy. Technology alone has made it easier than ever to be able to get our voices heard and communicate with one another, but few probably stop to think about the cost and that the concept of privacy is not what it used to be.

Yet somehow in our minds we think it should be. We keep our smart-phones glued to our hip, connecting us to the world beyond. That one piece of technology is able to give in detail who we talk to, how, how often, when, where we are when we do, and what our interests are through apps and internet usage.  And then we naively think that no one would want or should have access to that data. We willingly post pictures and details of our daily lives on social websites–what we’re eating, who we’re with, why we’re bored, etc–but yet seem to want to maintain the notion that our lives are our own and should still be private. The Facebook generation has no problems posting inner dialogue and risky outer moments on the internet for all to see, but then is surprised when employers frown or even invoke consequences on that same behavior.

Facebook privacy settings...time to check 'em.

As public as we make ourselves, there is still the thought of a “right to privacy.” Every time Facebook changes their parameters and settings, there is a following uproar to the loss of privacy, and yet many of us fail to change our own settings to maintain even the littlest of privacy allotted. If you haven’t yet, Google yourself. It’s not a bad thing to know just what is out there and what others are seeing. (It’s a scary, yet thoroughly entertaining excercise. I highly recommend it.) And just for giggles, Google your parents, some of your friends, and even some collegues too.

Have you Googled yourself lately?

Even with this blog, as a fairly private person I find myself struggling with the fact that my words are out there for anyone to see at any given point–and I’m the one that chose to put them out there! That is extremely intimidating. Once words are out, they cannot be taken back. That’s part of the beauty in what makes them so powerful. Our words shape our future and the future of others. Whether we choose to admit it or not, we are living the lives our long-ago words created.

When I first took on this 30 day self-imposed blog challenge, it was initially for me to tackle my book slump and get the creative juices flowing again so that one day the 30,000 word book monster sitting on my computer wouldn’t just be sitting on my computer. I even had the blog settings locked, set on private, and blocked the engines from crawling it. I meant business. What a strange dichotemy though–I had chosen to publish to the internet and yet didn’t want “the public” to see it. I was a walking talking hypocrisy. So with a big breath I changed the settings and opened myself up to the world…or at least to wordpress.

If I were truly honest with myself, I would admit that the notion of privacy is probably one of the road blocks on moving forward and finishing the book. I want to stay private. I like it. But how on earth am I to publish a book on the 30×30 project if 1) I am not completely honest and open and include details on that particular journey, 2) get over whatever fears I have in sharing the highs and lows of my current journey and situation, 3) don’t tell anyone I’m doing this, and 4) change the dang privacy settings on my blog! There is no way my life is going to be able to help anyone else’s if I stay locked away for my own personal security reasons. The whole point of this journey, this book, this blog, is to help someone else in their own. And when I don’t have good answers on “the how,” I tend to shy away. I’m human, I want to know the plan, the dirty details, the next steps…”the how.”

That is where faith comes in. When we know what to do and have the direction or instructions, it’s time to just step forward and do it. This is me doing it. At day 18 on the blog challenge we’re over halfway done. High five. The settings have been changed and this is a completely open blog, linked to Facebook and everything. Another high five. The 30,000 word monster is currently with an editor for round one editing. That’s the biggest high five of them all.

More than anything, thank  you to all who have been along on this journey so far, who are just joining, and to all those who are a part of the future stages. And when the 30,000 word book monster finally does come to fruition…I hope Google finds it.

Day 17: Yes, I like pina coladas…and all that goes with it.

I like pina coladas. And this summer I had the unique opportunity of getting caught in a true Colorado rainstorm. Not on purpose mind you, but I couldnt’ have planned it better if I had tried.  A group of us had taken a road trip to Steamboat Springs to invade the trails and enjoy the holiday weekend.  (For those who have never been there, it’s a cute little Colorado mountain town that is completely worth the drive. Put it on your list.) Out of the seven of us, there were multiple personalities and plenty of varied interests, so our adventures included everything from shopping to hiking to even a tubing trip down the river. We even figured out a way to have a dance party in the tubes. It can be done.

One of the many daytrips included a group of us taking a little jaunt down to the flower sanctuary just over the train tracks and through a trailer park. Yes, I said trailer park. I think we went out of pure curiosity. Apparently not a great judge of weather conditions, we were barely there long enough to sniff three flowers when the thunderclouds rolled in and did what clouds to best. Let loose. With almost a mile to trek to our condo, I thought we were going to take cover in the nearest gas station, but apparently I was mistaken. I forgot I was with a group of ultra marathoners–they decided to outrun the storm. They’re so stinkin’ fast that I think a few of them might have succeeded. I however, am not an ultra marathoner, and not feeling all that ambitious I decided that running in wet flip flops was not the best idea. Especially considering one of my many nicknames growing up was “Crashley.” No one wants to be wet and eat pavement.  No thank you. So I slowed down, smiled wide, and got ready to get 100% soaking, sopping wet.

I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. Quite frankly, I was a little overdue for a laugh like that. It felt like drops were coming up from the street they bounced so hard. I looked like a drowned rat by the time I walked up the hill back to the condo. Not a single stich of clothing was dry. Cars honked and I’m sure people pointed and stared. Ask me if I cared! And of course, I couldn’t complete my flip flop walk without singing out loud and on purpose the ever loveable pina colada song. It’s true, I did. In life storms are going to come and we are going to get caught. It is purely our choice whether or not we choose to dance.

I discovered that afternoon that yes, I did like pina coladas…and I absolutely like getting caught in the rain. Especially a Colorado mountain thunderstorm. Although it wasn’t officially on my list, I highly recommend adding this one to yours if you’ve never done it. And for bonus points, be sure and sing the song too.

We all know this girl's way too young for pina coladas. She can dance anyway.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I: 

Day 16: Giggles and a blast from the past

Almost didn’t go. A bout with food poisoning or some type of bug that makes you worship the porcelain god tried to take me out and detain me from a night with the girls, but I muscled through the nausea and found myself walking through the restaurant doors anyway. This wasn’t just dinner with any girls, this was dinner with ladies I hadn’t seen in ten years. This was a reunion dinner with my past.

Admittedly, bug or no bug, I was hesitant to go anyways. Meeting up with a gaggle full of sorority girls ten years later to compare rings, houses, and re-hash crazy college stories didn’t quite float my boat. Not really my cup of tea. But the thought of missing out on this very rare opportunity and not seeing them for perhaps another ten years made me leave my porcelain praying position and fight for parking among the Denver Friday fun-finders.

I entered the room and was shocked to see so many lovely and familiar faces. Eighteen had officially RSVP’d through Facebook and probably fought the same type of hesitations I did when deciding on whether or not to attend. (Ok, maybe not the same hesitations since I’m sure not everyone had been living on a diet consisting of saltines and sprite the last 24 hours.) But I’m sure I’m not the only one who had mixed feelings or girl anxieties on this impromptu fete.

To my surprise, any anxious feelings melted away with each and every hug and smile as new girls entered into the mix. No matter what, it’s always awkward connecting again after a decade of distance, but the hugs were genuine and the laughter throughout the table was enough to raise eyebrows from the rest of the room. With eighteen thirty-somethings, how could we not? (Funny flashback of causing a car accident on Shields while we were taking an official group photo outside the sorority house made me just grin right now.) So it wasn’t surprising when the twenty-five year old birthday boy celebrating across the room came and sprawled across our table for a group photo. We laughed, waved, and then told Mr. Jailbate and his friends to have a good night and move along. I’m sure somewhere we’re on Facebook right now. Great.

As I migrated from one end of the table to the other in order to play catch-up with as many as I could, stories and memories kept flooding back and upping the laugh factor even more. Who remembers being twenty-one and still having flip flops and shower caddies? And although we lived together for two years in the house on Shields street, it was really difficult to remember what we were all there for academically. That was a fun game–name that major. There were a few language majors, physical therapy, several PR and journalism junkies, a music major, and a few more business majors to boot. I personally was the only one in speech communication. That I do remember! So it was fun to find out that many of the girls were now teachers, stay at home moms, nurses and therapists in the medical profession. There was also a fire-fighter and personal trainer, a PR marketer for a college, and a finance gal as well. I was the only photographer. (And no, I did not bring my camera…I was off duty and did not want to be that girl.)

The evening came to a close and it was time to take my sickee self home. I still can’t believe it’s been ten years since college. College. Just a reminder how time really does fly and stands still for no one. All the more reason to get crackin’ on that next list. I don’t know why I expected it, but there was no comparing, no “I’m doing better than you,” and no “Oh, that’s what you’re doing?” At least not on my end. There were a few missing in action who were definitely missed that I’ll have to be sure to follow up with, but it was fun to wave to those who were able to make it. I just hope it’s not another ten years until the next one.

KKG
Picture 25 girls in black cocktail dresses getting a formal photo taken on the front steps–now imagine metal crunching and a rear-ending on the street right in front of the house. (Yeah, we’re laughing too.)

Day 15: Life Before the Lottery

Life before the lottery

Most of us are not living lottery lives. Mostly this is because the majority of us have never won the lottery. And statistics show that most of us never will. But what exactly is a lottery life, and do you really need to win the lotto jackpot in order to live the life you’ve always wanted?

One of my favorite road trip games to pass the time is to ask my fellow road-trippers what they would do and how they would live if they won the lottery. The fun is in hearing the different responses and dreams and the creativity behind a mind not cluttered with financial restrictions.

You hear of lottery winners going broke and becoming destitute, spending every penny they have on lotto tickets or developing a gambling problem. So very sad. They have missed the point completely. Buying a lotto ticket, at least for me, is not so much about winning the money as it is about truly allowing myself to dream—if just for a minute—about a life without restrictions where I could truly live my dreams. Of course actual lottery winners find themselves dealing with a whole other set of problems involving taxes, scams, strains on relationships and unknown addictions. But you can actually play the “lottery life” game and get the benefits of dreaming without ever playing the lottery…it’s called visualizing.

Occasionally when playing the lottery life game I’ll run across a person with the response, “That will never happen so why even think about it?” Or, “That’s a waste of time and money.” The question is not really, “What would you do with the money?” as much as what do those dreams really look like if you were given a chance to truly live them? Some people just aren’t willing to allow themselves to ask that question.

That’s a scary thought. The lottery question makes some people uncomfortable because they don’t know the answer to that question. Our current lives can be so far buried in responsibilities, pressures, and debt that it can almost be too painful to even think about. Or the idea of actually winning the lottery (because after all, we’ve all seen the astronomical odds of hitting the jackpot) is so out of reach that we don’t even want to think about it or get our hopes up.

For a lot of us in our minds, money equals freedom, and freedom equals happiness. Therefore in the American mindset money equals happiness. So if we don’t have a lot of money than think we can’t be happy. We think if we could just get X amount in the bank account we would be liberated from our problems and be that much happier.  So if we don’t have X amount of money, what does that mean? That we will never be happy until that happens? I beg to differ.

I believe we all have passions, dreams, talents and giftings but I think very few of us have the courage to figure out what they are and how to develop them, let alone actually use them. I am not advocating playing the lotto or endorsing gambling, but I wholeheartedly encourage anyone to allow themselves the freedom to dream and think about what it is in detail they really want and then having the courage to take action towards that and go get it.

It’s very scary to admit your dreams and true desires because what if they don’t come true? Then we’re left with unfulfilled dreams, feelings of failure, and broken hearts—and who really wants that? It’s easy to think the thought, “If I never allow myself to think about it or talk about it then I won’t be disappointed.” Unfortunately that won’t work. We are wired to have hopes and dreams, life is unfulfilling and miserable when we don’t–both for us and the people around us. I believe we can live out our “lottery lives” and feel fulfilled even if we never ever win the lottery.

What do you first think when I tell you that you can live your dreams and experience the happiness of a lottery life without ever winning the lottery? Is your first gut reaction, yeah right? Or are you intrigued?  Can you actually let yourself, just for a moment, believe that there are good things out there that are beyond your wildest dreams? We so often get crushed and trampled down by the monotonous routines and commitments of our everyday lives that we forget that there is adventure and beauty just waiting for us to discover.

More than anything, my 30×30 list was an avenue that allowed me to speak out loud the desires and dreams of my heart and go after them on purpose. It breaks my heart that most people forget to dream. Maybe more people should buy lotto tickets–not to actually win, but to allow themselves to have vision and dream big. I think I’ll go get one tonight.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

I’ve done the calculation and your chances of winning the lottery are identical whether you play or not.” – Fran Lebowitz

Forget the lottery. Bet on yourself instead. – Brian Koslow

Day 14: The days that leave scars…

Today the plan was to tackle the ugly and confront my procrastination. I always have good intentions to do that but always seem to find a reason to postpone it another time. *smiling* But today was the day. For reals this time.

This last April I was sideswiped by an unexpected loss through suicide which shattered my world and broke my heart in too many ways to count. For anyone who has gone through this kind of loss, you’ll understand me when I say that I went numb. Completely and absolutely numb. This of course is a part of the body’s emotional protection–and thank goodness for it, because if we were allowed to feel the depth and the entirety of the loss all at once it would be absolutely crushing beyond repair. In time, different forms of pain come through and emerge in layers later on as the shock starts to wear off, but the initial trauma just made everything freeze and stand still in my world. This particular pain will always leave a mark and a scar, forever leaving you changed.

So what happens in April for everyone else that didn’t happen in my world? Taxes. Thankfully I was able to file for an extension and push that onto the back burner to be dealt with later. But sooner or later, “later” comes and today it came for me. Technically I have until this October to file, but I do not like having stuff like that hang over my head. I am an excellent procrastinator, but even I will only allow certain things to go so far. Things like that are a nagging to-do that tend to hang in the shadows and zap the enjoyment of any type of free time or pleasant activities. I want to be thought of as a good little law abiding tax-paying citizen. (We will not get into a political discussion on taxes, but no matter where you personally lie on the matter, I have chosen to take the perspective to be very grateful to live in this country and enjoy the freedoms that come with calling America home. Freedom isn’t free. Although not enjoyable, I will be grateful. Ok, enough on that.)

I would have tackled this task a wee bit sooner, but while I had everything laid out in my home office as I was getting it all organized, the fire evacuation happened and every bit of paper ended up in one big pile in a gym bag as I rushed to pack my car. (See day 2 blog posting for more on that experience.) So today was “tackle taxes” day. And guess what? I did! That in and of itself was a big win. Although not on the official “next list”, it still was one of the bigger to-do items on my personal daily list that required a bit of celebration.

To celebrate today’s victory over procrastination, I went to Clement’s Park in Littleton, Colorado (where I grew up) for a walk around the lake and to enjoy the fresh air. The 1.4 mile pathway around the lake just called my name and begged me to come play. I haven’t lived in Littleton since I was eighteen and I hadn’t been to visit this area in years. It was fun to see how things had changed and how strangely they seemed the same. What I did not expect was to trade one heartbreak for another.

As I was walking along the path I found myself taking a detour up toward’s familiar territory and old stomping grounds from my past, Columbine High School, and soon found myself at the edge of something I was unprepared to handle today. As my flip flops flopped closer I could already feel the tears welling up under my sunglasses. I was at the edge of the Columbine Memorial commemorating the 13 lives loved and lost during the shooting at the high school on April 20, 1999. Senior year. The memories flooded back–there was no numbness this time.

I stood by the stone memorial that seemed so peaceful and in such stark contrast to the hatred and violence that created it. Knowing this was going to sting, I just stood there, taking deep breaths as I read the quotes and commemorative comments etched in stone under each name. Touching each name, I remembered being shattered then too. Families were torn apart, the quiet community rocked, and innocence was lost that day. Over a dozen of us were crammed in a room glued to the television with a list of names being checked off in the “safe” column as we saw them on the newsfeed or heard word through the teenage grapevine. Not everyone was accounted for. Thankfully, the water feature at the entrance broke the silence, keeping a continual background ambiance that otherwise would have been eerily silent.

http://www.brentpix.com/Colorado/Columbine-Memorial/22659878_FZ2p5x/1815725820_LphtQr8#!i=1815725820&k=LphtQr8

It’s in moments like these that reflection on life and the briefness of it invade reality in the most unexpected and uninvited way. Whether we choose to recognize it or not, life is a gift…and it is short. Very very short. Some are shorter than others and some are cut short in ways that will never ever make sense this side of heaven. I have learned that it is okay to ask our Maker the tough questions and take our heartbreak and tears to Him, but He  lovingly doesn’t always answer those questions in the way we expect. He promises healing, but the pieces very rarely get put back together the way they were before or the way we think they should. And some questions will never have answers to them at all. I believe that sometimes that is part of a protection mechanism too, much like numbness. In time, some answers do come–and in time, some answers don’t need to come anymore. That’s part of the beauty of the healing process. Either way, time seems to be involved.

I think that is partly why I have clung so tightly to the concept of the 30×30 list and the importance of goals and setting plans in place. The time we have here on earth is limited and valuable and I want to be a good steward of that precious resource. Time is one of the most valuable resources we have. Even when tragedy tears through our world, there is a hope that in time there will eventually be healing. And no matter the type of wound or how big and ugly the scar, it is a reminder that we are still alive.

And as long as I am still alive, I have been given the opportunity to cross one more thing off the list…and I’m going to take it.

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Photo by David Keyzer
“Never Forgotten” – Photo by David Keyzer

http://www.brentpix.com/Colorado/Columbine-Memorial/22659878_FZ2p5x/1815725820_LphtQr8#!i=1815725820&k=LphtQr8

Day 13: When you don’t know what you’re doing, do something.


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Yesterday was an interesting day. I had the opportunity to meet with an editor regarding the next steps on this 30×30 book. Have I ever published a book? No. Do I have any clue what I’m doing? No. But there I was sitting across from her at the coffee shop trying to answer questions on what I was doing and where we needed to go with this. Thankfully, she knows what she’s doing even if I don’t. (Mini lesson: when you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t be afraid to bring in reinforcements that do.)

I’ve had the majority of the book written for awhile, but then like all writers I hit the slump. Actually, it was a little more than just writer’s block. I was at full on war with it. So there the file sat on the computer, all sad and lonely and unopened for over a year. My friends knew better than to ask me about it. Without realizing it, I had just come to the point where I had done my part and it was time to turn it over to someone else. That’s probably the part I was having a hard time with…letting someone else read the entire enchilada all at once knowing that it’s not anywhere close to peak condition. As a fairly private person, it’s been interesting taking on a project that requires me to be not so private. When I was working on it I shared bits and pieces here and there with close friends, but it never felt done and I didn’t think it was ready to be read in its entirety. It’s a rough draft, not meant to be perfect–but I just couldn’t bring myself to let anyone see it with all its flaws. Ewwwww. But since I didn’t know what to do with it to make it ready, I just set it down and ignored it. And ignored it. And ignored it.

Until now. I am now proud to say that I have not only opened up the file, but I am sending it on to be reviewed, chewed up, and spit back out…and that is a very good thing. Progress doesn’t have to be big in order to be positive. I’ll take the little wins! So after a year of procrastination there is finally movement on pushing this book down the pipeline, red pen and all. Yay me. So although I don’t have all the answers or what this whole book publishing thing looks like, I look forward to more meetings with more people who know what they’re doing. And when I finally see it in print, I’m throwing a party.

TABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ― Maya Angelou

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” ― Douglas AdamsThe Salmon of Doubt

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ― Sylvia Plath

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” ― Henry David Thoreau

Day 12: If you plan it, they will come.

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this Dirty Thirty experience it’s that people will come along for the ride. They will. I learned early on that if I took the initiative and planned something, no matter what it was, there was always someone else who would join in on the fun–but nothing, absolutely nothing would ever have been checked off if I didn’t first initiate the plans. Very rarely will people have the drive to make the effort and do something on their own, so stop expecting someone or something else to make arrangements for you.

I was, however, pleasantly surprised in how many people joined me on my journey. Yosemite National Park was one of those pleasant surprises. I have always wanted to go and see this outdoor wonder and found out that reservations needed to be made about 4-6 months in advance. I don’t know about you, but getting people to commit to something next week is difficult enough, let alone six months from now.

I asked around to see who was interested on a road trip to Northern California and didn’t quite get the huge response I was looking for. But knowing that campsites fill up quickly I made the reservations and put down the deposit to hold a tent cabin at Curry Village. (And yes, it is actually a tent-cabin. I didn’t even know they existed, but they have them at Curry Village in Yosemite National Park.) I decided I would rather make reservations and take the risk that the trip might not happen then wait and find out later on that there’s no availability and not be able to go at all.

I told myself that if I had to go alone in order to cross this off my list, then so be it. Obviously I would rather have friends come with me, but I was not about to let a lack of support stop me from accomplishing #25 on my list. I figured I was a big girl, I could handle a weekend by myself. It might even be good for me. I had come too far already to be thwarted by someone else’s lack of enthusiasm. Turns out, three girlfriends were game for a road trip, so we all piled in a car for a girl’s getaway to go camping in Yosemite National Park. I think we giggled the whole five hour drive up there.

This is not the only item on my list where I had to make the first initial plans to do something whether anyone else would do it with me or not, but it was the one that I realized that other people were counting on me for their own adventures. In the car ride on the way home they asked me what the next thing was on the list—they wanted to know where we were going next. “This was fun Ash, where are we going next?” These girls had helped me cross off New York, seeing a Broadway play, wine tasting in Temecula to celebrate graduation, and skydiving. But sitting in that back seat on the way home from Yosemite was the first time I realized that my list was not my own, I was not the only one looking forward to crossing things off my list.

I have since discovered that if I am willing to organize and take the first steps to plan and put things in motion, there is always someone who will tag along and join in on the fun. I like to call these people tag-alongs. (They won’t put in the effort or ever start their own projects, but they’ll always hitch on to someone else.) And that is okay. The world needs leaders and followers. Be the leader in your own life and invite others to follow you in your journey.

On the road trip of life, you can pack the car, pick the destination, and turn on the ignition long before and without the help of anybody else. Once all the preparation and menial tasks are done, don’t be surprised when other passengers want to get in beside you and tag along for the ride. Let them. 

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” – Oprah Winfrey 

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” ― Yogi Berra

Day 11: “A photographer I am not”…a phrase I need to delete from my vocabulary

Ashography Event & Portrait Photography
Ashography Event & Portrait Photography

Today I was reminded of one of the items on my list and why I like it so much–photography. Some clients vacationing in Breckenridge hired me to document an afternoon out by the lake with their extended clan. I love seeing families interact and play with each other. Each shoot is so different. It’s in the capturing of genuine smiles, laughter, and even tears that I find enjoyment. (When photographing toddlers, there is almost always a good shot of waterworks. I love it.)

With the digital era and the art of photography so easily accessible to the general public (and anyone with a smart phone), I almost feel guilty even remotely calling myself a photographer. I feel like a phony at times. But I get paid for it, so apparently I’ve done something right somewhere along the way. But that didn’t “just happen.” There was effort involved. A lot of effort.

Ashography - Vail Wedding
Ashography – Vail Wedding

First and foremost, my apologies to all the “real” photographers out there for all those like myself who poach on the art. I do not have $10,000 lenses or have an official press pass at sporting events, but I am extremely grateful that technology has allowed me to be able to pursue a passion and do what I love (and make a little extra dough while snapping those smiles.)

But it wasn’t easy to bust into the industry. No one likes wannabes.  Especially “real” or professional photographers. But how do you learn unless you start somewhere? Do not despise small beginnings. Thankfully, I had a professional California wedding photographer take me under his wing and who was kind enough to show me the ropes over the course of several years. I had to hunt him down, throw in some bribery and begging, and have divine favor to get my foot in the door, but it was well worth the effort! I learned more from interning under two wedding photographers getting hands on experience than I did during the photography course through the Ansel Adams gallery in Yosemite. (Don’t get me wrong, I loved that course! I almost didn’t take it because I was intimidated by it, but that’s another story for another time.)

Family Portraits - Baby Sam
Family Portraits – Baby Sam

I admit, there are times when I see someone else’s work or fancy equipment and have an extreme case of photog insecurity or jealousy. But then I have to remind myself that I may not be at their level but I’ve worked hard, have definitely come a long way, there is a reason why clients hire me…and I love what I do. I started from scratch on this one.  I look back at some of the work from my earlier shoots and cringe, but I have to remind myself that I am a work in progress and that I do have something to offer my clients. I do–otherwise I wouldn’t have any!

Ashography Wedding - Boobie Bride
Ashography Wedding – Boobie Bride

The best part about crossing off photography from the 30×30 list is that it’s actually never really going to be fully crossed off. When I put it on the list, I didn’t even own a DSLR camera. I had to research, learn, and save up for what I thought at the time was “photographer equipment.” Turns out, I bought all the wrong stuff. Oops. Don’t worry, my photographer mentor set me straight. But the beauty of photography is there is always room to upgrade…I mean grow.

The year 2009 was when I started making efforts to cross this off my list. Fast forward five years, two internships, several equipment upgrades, multiple classes, two websites, one logo creation, one business EIN, multiple trade shows and conferences, and roughly 30 weddings later and I have Ashography Event & Portrait Photography! Honestly, I can probably put it on my list again. And again. And again.

Ashography - Fitness Studio Shoot
Ashography – Fitness Studio Shoot
Ashography - Family Portraits
Ashography – Family Portraits
Ashography - Family Portraits
Ashography – Family Portraits

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I: 

Karl Lagerfeld “What i like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.” ― Karl Lagerfeld

Ansel Adams “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” ― Ansel Adams
Abraham Lincoln “There are no bad pictures; that’s just how your face looks sometimes.” ― Abraham Lincoln
Ansel Adams “You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”  ― Ansel Adams
Eudora Welty“A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.” ― Eudora Welty
Leaving the City of Regret
Leaving the City of Regret

Today is officially a travel day for me, meaning not a whole lot of time to spend on the keyboard. So in lieu of a lengthy thought bubble blog today, I have decided to re-quote something that I heard while driving in the car. I’ve definitely made a few trips to this city–not my favorite destination. Enjoy, and I’ll be back tomorrow. Ciao!

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The City Of Regret

By Larry Harp

I had not really planned on taking a trip this time of year, and yet I found myself packing rather hurriedly. This trip was going to be unpleasant and I knew in advance that no real good would come of it. I’m talking about my annual “Guilt Trip.”

I got tickets to fly there on Wish I Had airlines. It was an extremely short flight. I got my baggage, which I could not check. I chose to carry it myself all the way. It was weighted down with a thousand memories of what might have been. No one greeted me as I entered the terminal to the Regret City International Airport. I say international because people from all over the world come to this dismal town.

As I checked into the Last Resort Hotel, I noticed that they would be hosting the year’s most important event, the Annual Pity Party. I wasn’t going to miss that great social occasion. Many of the towns leading citizens would be there.

First, there would be the Done family, you know, Should Have, Would Have and Could Have. Then came the I Had family. You probably know ol’ Wish and his clan. Of course, the Opportunities would be present, Missed and Lost. The biggest family would be the Yesterday’s. There are far too many of them to count, but each one would have a very sad story to share.

Then Shattered Dreams would surely make and appearance. And It’s Their Fault would regale us with stories (excuses) about how things had failed in his life, and each story would be loudly applauded by Don’t Blame Me and I Couldn’t Help It.

Well, to make a long story short, I went to this depressing party knowing that there would be no real benefit in doing so. And, as usual, I became very depressed. But as I thought about all of the stories of failures brought back from the past, it occurred to me that all of this trip and subsequent “pity party” could be canceled by ME! I started to truly realize that I did not have to be there. I didn’t have to be depressed. One thing kept going through my mind, I CAN’T CHANGE YESTERDAY, BUT I DO HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE TODAY A WONDERFUL DAY. I can be happy, joyous, fulfilled, encouraged, as well as encouraging. Knowing this, I left the City of Regret immediately and left no forwarding address. Am I sorry for mistakes I’ve made in the past? YES! But there is no physical way to undo them.

So, if you’re planning a trip back to the City of Regret, please cancel all your reservations now. Instead, take a trip to a place called, Starting Again. I liked it so much that I have now taken up permanent residence there. My neighbors, the I Forgive Myselfs and the New Starts are so very helpful. By the way, you don’t have to carry around heavy baggage, because the load is lifted from your shoulders upon arrival. God bless you in finding this great town. If you can find it — it’s in your own heart — please look me up. I live on I Can Do It Street.

Day 9: Don’t judge me by my golf game

Girlie goofy golf...my kind of game
Girlie goofy golf…my kind of game

Let’s talk about golf…and how I can’t. I was reminded of this recently when out on the range at the local golf club and found myself explaining to my golf partner why he was suddenly and unexpectedly playing best ball. (For all you non-golfers out there, best ball is when you play off of whoever’s ball is in the best location for the next shot. I kind of like to call it “free for all” golf. My favorite.)

Part of what has been so enjoyable about this 30 day blog challenge is going back through the old list and recounting the steps taken on each item. Ahhhhh, memories. I have to laugh when I come across “learn to golf” on the list because, really, at what point do you consider yourself “learned”? Golf is a lot like math or a foreign language–if you don’t use it you lose it. And since I pretty much now only go out for the annual Father’s day round with my dad, any skills I did have I have pretty much kissed goodbye. So how can I claim to have crossed “learn to golf” off of my list when obviously the only way I play is goofy golf? That’s simple. It was never about golf to begin with.

Golf, like photography, is one of those things that is a constant work in progress. The more you do it, the better you become. When I slapped that particular item on the list I was working in an industry where a lot of business is done out on the golf course. Being that I was one of the few women in a heavily dominated male industry–and I wasn’t a golfer–I was at a slight disadvantage. Golf intimidated me. I am totally ok with business meetings being held out on the green, I just don’t like not being invited to them.

On one of my business trips, some of my fabulous co-workers signed me up for a golf tournament as a joke, fully knowing that the only kind of golf I had ever played was putt-putt. A wise and kind soul took pity on me and gave me a heads up, secretly setting me up with two lessons at his country club. Friends, you cannot learn how to golf in two lessons.

I seriously thought about calling in sick, because quite honestly, I felt sick. The last thing I wanted to do was be the butt of all golf jokes with a bunch of executives. I was prepared to be mortified and dreaded the embarrassment I knew was to come. What I did learn and was not expecting at all, was that the joke was on them.

Although my two lessons did not make me a golf superstar, what they did do is impress the boys that I even made an effort to learn their game at all. Apparently they liked the fact that I even made the attempt and that I wanted to get out and play with them. And that day, in that particular tournament, I got a whole 18 rounds of golf lessons with some very intelligent and likable businessmen. Instead of making me feel like the annoying little sister tagging along on the course, they made golf fun for me and officially introduced me to the game. (And they even taught me how to cheat. Yesssssss!)

Over the next couple years I played in many many golf tournaments, learning the art of shmoozing on the course, and I now know the difference between an iron, driver, and pitching wedge. I can see why guys like the sport so much. There is nothing not to like about getting out and enjoying the outdoors for a few hours, partaking in a little smack talk, losing a bet or two, and of course, making skid marks in a golf cart.

Although my golf game will never probably look like a “real” golf game, I have to say I do like to make the attempt every now and then. The whole point of putting it on the 30×30 list was to not be intimidated by the game any more. Golf, and the fact that I knew nothing about it, intimidated me. I hate being intimidated. Especially by something as silly as a little white golf ball. Although I will never be the next Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, I can cross “learn to golf” off my list in good conscience because I am no longer intimidated to throw on my golf shoes, hit the green, or be bossed around by a little ball. Much. I do not need to have mastered the game to be the master of my list. (Although I need to make sure that those I play with know that we’re more than likely going to be playing goofy golf. I’ve even had a game of golf turn into croquet. Be forewarned.)

It's time to enjoy the journey
It’s time to enjoy the journey

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 8: Good intentions mean squat

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Ever missed a deadline or been late meeting someone? I hate being late, and yet somehow it happens more often than I would like. I’m the squeeze-in-just-in-the-nick-of-time, or more often the five minutes late girl. I have a friend who is always on time. I don’t know if I’ve ever gone out to meet her and I was the one waiting for her. Even when I’m early, she’s earlier. I can’t win. That’s kind of annoying when you’re trying to improve your timely habits. She makes me look bad. *nose crinkle*

I never intend to be late. Who really does? I don’t think my estimation of how long it takes to get somewhere is way off, I think I just have a personal problem of actually getting out the door by the time I intended to get out the door. There’s always the last minute to-do’s that I think don’t take much time but apparently take more time than I think–like filling the water bottle, grabbing  the right jacket or shoes, finding the phone…and of course, the pre-trip potty. See, about five minutes worth. Why don’t I account for this? Don’t worry, this is not a mystery I am going to try and solve today.

After creating my 30×30 list at the coffee shop while playing hookie from work that day, I walked away inspired and with a plan. I quickly realized that without any action behind it, all I had was a list of good intentions. Boo. That will get me nowhere–no one is inspired by a list of good intentions. It wasn’t until I had checked off several items on the list that friends started realizing that I really meant to do what was on the list. It wasn’t just a wish-list, this was really happening. After awhile, things clicked and people really started getting on board with it. The 30×30 list started gaining a lot of momentum.

There was roughly a two year period of time where quite a bit of the 30×30  items were checked off. The list seemed to gain momentum–the more I did the more I wanted to do, and the more others wanted to help me. I’m usually on the more the merrier program, so that was really fun! I remember coming back from our girls camping trip in Yosemite and one friend yelled out over the music to me in the back seat, “What else is on the list? So what are we doing next?!” Unfortunately, there were only two things left on the list at that point and one of them was buying a house. Don’t think she’d be much help on that one. I was kind of surprised at the disappointed look on her face. Just because my list was almost done didn’t mean the good times would end. (I think some of my friends lived vicariously through my list–it was kind of funny to watch. I really don’t mind sharing, but get your own list!)

It’s a rare thing to find people who do what they say they’re going to do. Most people have a believe-it-when-they-see-it mentality. And can you blame them? We live in a society where it’s completely normal to have empty promises flying around. We almost expect to be let down. It doesn’t take much to announce you’re going to do something. Not a whole lot of effort involved in that. Until it’s actually in process or done, words don’t mean much. But when you actually do the things you say you’re going to do, it’s amazing how refreshing and uplifting it is for everyone involved.  See it. Say it. Do it. (And then really do it.) I’m definitely a work in progress on this subject, but I want to be the kind of person who is known for doing what I say I’m going to do. I don’t want to be known for being unreliable. Or always being late. Yuck. I don’t just want to have good intentions…I want to have great actions behind them.

And on that note, I’m going to be late meeting my friend if I don’t leave right now. I know she’s waiting–gotta go!

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 7: Time to celebrate commitment. Yes, I said commitment.

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Sometimes we just need to create reasons to celebrate. Today is one of them.  I am choosing to pat myself on the back for making it through to day 7. Yay! And when we hit day 30, we’ll think of some way to celebrate that too. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.

I read a quote that struck me and thought today may be an appropriate day to share it. “Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.” (author unknown)

This is true in all kinds of matters–from bigger stuff like marriage and vows to littler things like showing up to your volunteer commitments or making good on the flippant promises to your kids. It’s easy to say, “I’ll do it” when we’re in the moment and it’s exciting to see the reactions of those right in front of us. It’s a whole other ball game when it comes time to doing the deed and getting it done. A little less fun for sure. But it’s in the showing up and the getting it done part that the real reward happens. And when it does, it is a reason to celebrate.

That is definitely one lesson learned throughout the 30×30 experience. Actually two lessons. The first was actually figuring out a way to do what I said I would do, even when it wasn’t so enjoyable (like going to 6:30am practices every Saturday when training for my marathon, or let’s face it–two years of classes and homework for that pesky master’s degree). There are definitely times that will come when you just have to suck it up and push through in order to cross off an item. Not everything or every part of an experience is “fun.” But it’s worth it. It’s true–if it were easy, everyone would do it.

The second lesson learned is how important it is to really truly celebrate when it’s time to celebrate–and recognizing when those moments are. Or creating them, if needed. When I graduated from my MBA program I almost didn’t go to my graduation. Then I decided, “No, I worked over two years on this sucker, it’s time to play!”  Admittedly, it’s a little weird planning your own party, but I got over it and decided to do it anyways. So invitations went out, family flew in, and the real celebration was everyone piling in a limo and going wine tasting that weekend. (Side lesson: it helps to make it fun for others to celebrate. I find wine usually works.) And those are the memories that I’ll take with me. Absolutely worth it.

Another side lesson is that not everything has to be a full-blown party (although life would be way more fun if it were, right?) I have found that creating little reasons to celebrate makes task-tackling a lot easier. Met a deadline? Time for a pedicure. Finally cleaned the house from top to bottom? Maybe a glass of sweet tea in the freshly dusted room. Or whatever is enjoyable to you. The everyday to-do tasks will always be there, but it is important to recognize when progress has been made and even more essential to take time to enjoy it. And the big stuff? Even more so! I hate it when I hear of people forgetting anniversaries or poo-pooing birthdays. No, no, no. If we can’t take the time to celebrate important relationships and all the hard work that goes into maintaining them, then something is just not right. It is okay to play! (And even more so if you’re married to them!) Ok, enough on that.

So today is day 7. Mini win. And I think that there might be a yummy carnitas lunch out with a friend or a glass of wine in my future. Who knows, maybe both. I’ll take it. *big smile*

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 6: Getting old is not for the faint of heart

Joyriding
Joyriding

No one wants to be old–there’s a multi-billion dollar industry built around avoiding it. But why all the hoopla and stigma around being or becoming old? If you are blessed to get to the point where you are considered old, congratulations–that means you were given the chance to live life. Maybe we don’t like even the hint of getting old because we don’t want to think about all the things we’ve missed out on, didn’t do, or even about the dumb things we did do. We don’t like to think about the chances missed or come to grips with the fact we may not be able to do the same things we used to. Maybe that’s why we don’t like change either. (That’s a whole other subject to blog about!) Maybe if we admit that we’re getting old we have to face our regrets…or even the possiblity of death. (And really, who wants to do that?)

Why all the talk on becoming old? Maybe because it’s on my brain after today’s events. Today my mom and I went to visit my grandmother for the quarterly “state of the Ginnymom” address from the nursing home. It’s where we meet with the home director and her main nurses to go over her current care and address any future needs or concerns. Nothing about it is fun. Nothing. Actually, not true. Today was one of the first meetings where a positive report was given on the improvement made in physical therapy and weight gain, and that was something to cheer for. Yay Ginnymom! But navigating through the sea of wheelchairs and wrinkles and weird smells is not always the most enjoyable of experiences. I don’t think anyone ever really wants to get to a point where they need a nursing home, no matter how good of a facility it is. But, if we’re blessed enough to live long enough, I’m glad there are places out there that will provide those services…this particular one has an ice cream machine. Makes visiting her twice a week a wee bit yummier.

I have been around the “old” much more than I ever anticipated. I live and work in a little mountain town that is a retirement community and an outdoor playground for active seniors …the average age is over 60, no joke. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very active and lovable community with some of the fanciest RV’s and ATV’s I’ve ever seen, but I definitely cut the average age in half if I go to happy hour at the country club. It’s kinda funny, really. The personalities and experiences that reside in this community definitely make for some entertaining conversations when hanging with the locals! For the last year I had been living with Ginnymom in her home as a type of in-home caretaker to help my mom out with her increasing need for care. (Try explaining that one to a random stranger or a first date–who wants to admit being a 30-something living at home with grandma? *laughing*) At the time I had just moved back to Colorado and had the means and the opportunity to help out in that department, so the plan was to avoid the nursing home situation for as long as possible…meaning I would be the “assisted living” for as long as the opportunity and her health allowed.  (I’ve got some funny stories of catching her washing her dishes with Comet, cleaning out year-old eggs from the fridge, and becoming really creative on throwing out garbage. Little hoarder.)

But when a series of strokes took her out this past January, we were no longer able to care for her in the way she needed.  We actually almost lost her. I will never forget the day I found her half-naked on the floor in her bedroom, shivering and unable to speak. We are very lucky to still have her. But the image of her and how sick and frail she was when we finally had to admit her to the nursing home is part of what made today’s good report that much sweeter–there is always hope and room for improvement even when you’re old. I am so grateful for facilities like the one she’s in and cannot thank the nurses and staff enough for caring for her and those like her. It’s not easy being old–and getting old is not for the faint of heart either. I believe it’s important to respect those that are already there, they’ve earned it.

And maybe that’s why I’m not all that afraid to get old. Don’t get me wrong, I do not want to be the kind of old where I’m mean, crotchety, and full of regrets. On the contrary–I want to be the kind of old where I can rock out in my rocking chair, tell tall tales to my grandkids, and cheers those around me with Ensure. Although it wasn’t easy living with an 89 year-old, I also don’t regret any of the time that I got to spend with such a wonderful kind-hearted family member. I firmly believe that we reap what we sow. Living with her was my way of sowing good seeds into her world so that one day when I’m in that stage of life someone will be kind enough to be there and do the same for me. (And if I don’t live to be that old, I want to go out with a bang!) If I’m going to have wrinkles, I want them to be smile and laugh lines. Each day truly is a gift and I do not want to waste even a single one. That’s part of what the whole 30×30 list is about–putting down on paper and then making efforts to bring to life the kinds of things that will allow me later in life to look back and be able to say, “Bring on the wrinkles…I’ve earned it.” Cheers to that!

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Robert Frost
“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” ― Robert Frost

Douglas Coupland

“When you’re young, you always feel that life hasn’t yet begun — that “life” is always scheduled to begin next week, next month, next year, after the holidays — whenever. But then suddenly you’re old and the scheduled life didn’t arrive. You find yourself asking, ‘Well then, exactly what was it I was having — that interlude — the scrambly madness — all that time I had before?”  ― Douglas CouplandLife After God

Sophia Loren

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” ― Sophia Loren
Jarod Kintz

“I’m willing to die for the woman I love. I just want to take 75 years to do it.”― Jarod KintzWho Moved My Choose?: An Amazing Way to Deal With Change by Deciding to Let Indecision Into Your Life
Marilyn Monroe

“I want to grow old without facelifts… I want to have the courage to be loyal to the face I’ve made. Sometimes I think it would be easier to avoid old age, to die young, but then you’d never complete your life, would you? You’d never wholly know you.” ― Marilyn Monroe
Yoko Ono

“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”
― Yoko Ono

Day 5: Excuse me, that wasn’t on the list…

School of fear...I mean bungee jumping
The post-jump meltdown. Having a moment.

I have been to the school of fear. Some people call it bungee jumping, but I call it the school of fear. And I got schooled. Several friends in my master’s program were able to witness my journey as I crossed several things off my list over the years that we were together, and some of them actually created 30×30 lists of their own. (Side lesson: the 30×30 list can be contagious.)

Bungee jumping was never on my list, but when a friend wanted to cross the activity off of her own list the adrenaline junkie in me just couldn’t say no. As I was standing on the bridge I wish I had. I was more terrified to bungee jump and leap off the bridge than I was to go skydiving.  I know, it doesn’t make sense, but it’s true. I was excited and nervous to go skydiving, but I did not have the paralyzing fear that I experienced during my bungee adventure. I was downright terrified—and this wasn’t even on my list!

Maybe in the back of my mind I thought that if something goes wrong while skydiving, life just ends with a really fantastic view. That, and I will have gone crossing something off my list, making me one happy girl. But if something goes wrong bungee jumping, the survival rate and the probability to receive injuries that can last a lifetime are much greater. These are the thoughts that went through my head. Completely rational, right? But I stared fear right in the face, screamed, and leapt off the ledge like only a crazy person would. And kept on screaming…I think there might have been a few expletives in there as well. Oops.

Jumping off a bridge is not normal.  But as I stared at the group of us that were lined up to do so, I realized there were a lot of us that weren’t normal. This just reaffirmed that although I am not normal in any sense of the word, I am not alone. I may be crazy, but I am not the only one. (I might as well have a good time and enjoy my lunacy, right?)

Actually, I did it twice. I jumped off a bridge of my own volition not just once, but two times. That’s not normal either. But I learned a lesson about myself that I may not have figured out as quickly if it weren’t for this experience. My first jump was a forward leap where I saw what I was doing and where I was heading (which was straight toward the rocks and the river below) and yet chose to make my body do something my brain didn’t want to do.

Crazies in jump school
The crazies in jump school. The pre-jump jump practice.

The second jump was a backwards leap where I had to make a conscious decision to let go of what was safe and fall backwards not knowing or being able to see where I was going, trusting the rope and harness to do its job and protect me. That was so much scarier! It took two countdowns and extra sweet talk from the bungee instructor before I could let go and just fall. This really surprised me. I didn’t think I would have such a hard time, especially after I had already jumped once. But there I stood on the bridge platform, paralyzed with fear. I couldn’t fall backwards.

"I'm sorry, you want me to do whaaaaat?"
“I’m sorry, you want me to do whaaaaat?”

Afterwards when our group of fifteen jumpers went to dinner to celebrate, I was even more surprised to discover that most people had an easier time falling backwards than jumping forward. I couldn’t help but think, “Maybe I’m not as normal as I thought. Oh great, I’m not even normal among crazies!” Then it occurred to me that even in life there’s not only a fear of moving forward into what we perceive as scary, but there’s also a very real fear of letting go and trusting that it will be okay no matter what happens.  Both are very different fears and very different kinds of trust, and both are also very, very real. It’s not that one is any better or worse than the other, but whether it’s moving forward or letting go, letting the fear paralyze us into inaction is never a good thing.

Doing nothing is still a choice. Inaction is still a choice. Even if I chose not to move or to freeze, the fact still remained that I was on the edge and I would continue to be afraid until I either jumped off or moved back over the railing to where I was before. Either way there were consequences. If I chose to jump I had to get over all the fear that entailed, but if I chose not to jump and get back onto the safe side of the bridge I would have to be okay with missing out on the experience and the adventure. I hate missing out on adventure. Ultimately I was not okay with that option and chose to move past my fear and make the leap, and I am so glad I did! Honestly, I don’t ever want to do that again, but I am very thankful that I took the opportunity when I had it and I know that I would have regretted not doing it. That’s the beauty and the power of choice—I can make the choice to do something and take the risk, and also have the power to choose not to experience that again. My personal philosophy is to try it once, and if I don’t like it, I don’t have to do it again!

Zero fun, can you tell?

So thank you bungee jumping, for making me realize that I have more trouble letting go and more fear of moving backwards than I do pushing forward. Good to know. And thank you to the crazies–I’m glad I’m not the only one. And thank you to my friend, for inviting me to be a part of her adventure. I had so many people support me as I was checking things off my list, it was really a treat to be on the other side and be able to do that for someone else. That’s the funny thing about lists, sometimes the best things aren’t even on them.

Post jump smiles
Post jump smiles

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I: 

Woody Allen

“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
― Woody Allen
Eleanor Roosevelt

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

John Lennon

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”
― John Lennon
Dan Brown

“Men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire.”
― Dan BrownThe Da Vinci Code

Day 4: Writing the vision…and how I didn’t.

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Okay, here we are in day 4. I have to be completely honest on why I’m doing this 30 day self-imposed blog challenge. When the last item on my 30×30 list was completed, I entered into a “now what?” mode, and I just put everything on pause and continued on with normal life. As in life, I was tossed some curveballs that kept even the slightest thought of getting back into list-making far far away. (A major break-up, a cross-country move, a new job, taking care of an elderly grandmother, death of a boyfriend…you know, life.)

But the entire time it had been put on my heart to write about my 30×30 experience. And like the good procrastinator I am, I ignored that thought and didn’t do anything for a long time and put that thought on the top shelf. And then people started asking me to write a book. And I did nothing. But after doing a photography shoot for an author’s conference creating bio portraits for author’s books…I got inspired. Over the course of a year I wrote sections and thought bubbles on the experiences and life lessons this 30×30 journey has taken me on–30,000 words worth–and then I did nothing.

I was stuck. The more I tried to get my act together on the final portions of the 30,000 word monster, the more I got frustrated and angry with it. So I set it down and left it there. And there it sat for over a year. Even though I knew the power of what the written word can accomplish–it was a key factor in completing the 30×30 list–I wouldn’t even look at it. The book, the unfinished product, the whole thing just made me feel like a failure. But the publishing siren kept calling and the feeling that I needed to do it just wouldn’t go away.

So here I am. This 30 day blog challenge is set to force me to re-visit the old list, re-open the rough draft, get going on the next steps in publishing, and to hopefully inspire me to begin setting the goals for the next list. What to call it yet, I’m not sure. But I do know that it has been laid on my heart to write, and so write I shall. I know this also means being diligent and disciplined to set aside the time to not only write in this blog challenge, but also to pick up where I left off on the actual book. It also means picking up the phone and making some very embarrassing phone calls to the publishing industry. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the financial side and costs of birthing a book! But before I get too ahead of myself and get caught up on the details, I will put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and continue to do what I was supposed to do a long time ago. Write write write. Cheers to the power of the pen. Here we go!

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

  • “Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God], the people perish; but he who keeps the law [of God, which includes that of man] —blessed (happy, fortunate, and enviable) is he.” — Proverbs 29:18
  • And then God answered: Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision message is a witness pointing to what’s coming—it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time.” – Habakkuk 2:2-3 (Message Bible)
  • “To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.” – Herman Melville
  • A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God.” – Sidney Sheldon
  • Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” – Henry David Thoreau
  •  “If you have other things in your life—family, friends, good productive day work—these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer.” – David Brin
  •  “My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying.” – Anton Chekhov

Day 3: Re-hashing the good times

Celebrating Crossing off #29 on the list
Celebrating crossing off the last of the last of the list…

I found a video I created awhile back, highlighting some of the good times in the 30×30 journey. Admittedly, I had to watch it through my fingers (the amateur status is that painful, really), but it was really fun to revisit certain things that I hadn’t thought about in years. Some things even got a nervous giggle and an eye roll or two. Cooking lessons? Really? I almost completely forgot that getting a fuzzy friend was on my list–I live and love on Mojo every day, yet somehow I forgot that he was ever on the list in the first place. Sorry Mojis! After watching the video and reviewing the list itself, I decided to post the list in its entirety–something I haven’t really shared with the “public.”

So here you are–the official list and all the dates that go with it right here on this very blog. (Check out the tab labeled “The List” for the big reveal.)  It’s been really fun to look back and remember the progression and the momentum that built up surrounding this personal challenge, and all the people involved in making it come to life. When asked about my list, some of the 30×30 items just naturally float to the top of the list–like skydiving and completing that master’s degree. But there are certain things that fall through the memory cracks and seem to get buried under what I call the “sexy conversation items.” Everyone wants to talk about skydiving and swimming with dolphins. Eyes light up when they hear of the 10 day raft trip down the Grand Canyon, cruising the Med, or camping in Yosemite. But somehow it just doesn’t seem as engaging to talk about the “unsexy items,” like drafting a will, setting up a 401K, or organizing photos. Boring, I know. But those snoozer items are still items that were important enough to make the list. They’re important to me.

My point to this whole nostalgia piece is that not everything on the list has to be blow-your-socks-off cool or difficult to the n’th degree. Otherwise you can just create a “places to travel” list. That’s fun, do that too. But as human beings we are multi-faceted and have different degrees and levels of interest, creating things that challenge us in varying ways. So why not have a list that reflects that? Face some fears, put on some dreaded tasks and items of procrastination. Why not throw on a couple “that’ll never happen’s?” I dare you. The thing is, it’s your list. Do with it what you want. But start it. Then maybe years down the road you can look back and laugh at what’s on there…maybe even through a couple of fingers and some eye rolls.

30×30 Montage Video – Proof It Actually Happened

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

  • “Today we may say aloud before an awe-struck world: We are still masters of our fate. We are still captain of our souls.” – Prime Minister Winston Churchill
  • Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.” – Henri Matisse
, French painter
 1869–1954

Day 2: When under fire….life of an evacuee.

The view before evacuation…

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Earlier this summer I had the unique experience of going through an emergency evacuation as the West Fork Fire ripped through beetle kill trees in the Rio Grande National Forest in Southern Colorado, heading straight towards the town of South Fork. Straight for home.

The reverse 911 call went out and in just a matter of hours South Fork became a ghost town. Not having been through anything like this before, I learned several things throughout this experience.

First and foremost I learned that I am a bizarre packer. Looking back, and not knowing exactly how much time I had to pack, I pretty much packed my car in three phases. Phase I: basic essentials. This consisted of the typical things one might first pack–like files, pictures, computer, pets, etc. Phase II: things that make you feel more prepared–like dog food and tennis shoes. Phase III: completely ridiculous things that make no sense but somehow make it into the car–like my pillow, and a bunch of new bras I had just ordered from Victoria’s Secret. I call these creature comforts. Things that make no sense whatsoever, but somehow end up in the car anyways. I can’t explain it, but it made it quite entertaining to rediscover what made it into the suitcase over the next 8 days that we were “homeless.” Each day I felt like I’d find one more thing that would make me scratch my head. Things that make you go hmmmmm.

Another thing I learned while being evacuated is that an evacuee has a lot of time to just sit, and wait, and wait…and think. Each day started with an evacuee meeting at the Red Cross shelter, getting updates on containment (or lack thereof), and learning that today was not the day you were going to get to go back home.

Honestly, that put a lot of things in perspective. Thankfully, we were able to evacuate and stay at a relative’s house in the next town just 17 miles away. Three dogs, two cats, and three adults in a charming little house with one bathroom. No one complained. At one point, we just cracked open a bottle of wine and sat on the porch of our temporary home and watched the 30,000 foot smoke plume invade the sky, completely helpless. There was absolutely nothing we could do, and the moment you realize that is very sobering.

When we left South Fork with cars loaded, I drove out of the driveway not expecting to return. At all. We were wheels up at 10:00am, and with the fire burning through beetle kill fuel at over a mile an hour, it was estimated the fire would reach town center by 2:00pm that afternoon. When we left, I said goodbye…and I said goodbye for good. Honestly, if the town was going to go, we did not want to be the only structure left. Lord, save all of it or none of it, but please don’t leave us in-between. God saved us all.

Probably the most important thing I learned is how to say goodbye. When something is completely out of your control, it’s actually quite freeing when you realize it and let it go. It’s amazing when you truly release something and let it go how it somehow finds its way back. After 8 days and 110,000 acres later, we drove back in to find not one thing harmed, not one structure burned, and not one life lost. When walking back into the house for the first time, I was shocked to discover we didn’t even smell like smoke. Now that is a God-wink.

Now that we’ve been back for a bit, the danger has waned, and we’ve been able to settle back into a “normal” routine–things aren’t really that normal. The river sounds better, the grass smells sweeter, and the bugs aren’t very “buggy.” I feel like I’ve been granted a fresh perspective and a new reason to enjoy even the littlest chores and tasks. Because just a few short weeks ago we were very close to losing it all. And for that, I am very grateful. I have no doubt this experience will come into play as I continue to create my next decade list of goals. Things shifted with this experience–and that is more than okay.

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QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.” – Eliza Tabor

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

30×30 Flash Forward: The New Challenge

I feel very fortunate and blessed to have been able to cross off 29 of the 30 things on my 30×30 list (see previous post for more details), and although that particular list is done, it’s been crossing my mind a lot lately. It’s been two years since the “official” 30×30 list had been completed and celebrated with a hot air balloon ride, but some recent events have led me to revisit the concept of writing and opening up about that journey as I’m entering the next one. What does this look like? A blog of course. So here I am.

The new challenge: to write or “blog” over the next 30 days.

That seems like a lot of writing and perhaps a bit of an overkill. I agree. But since I don’t really know what I’m doing, why not just stick with the number 30 and go from there? So, here is day one–a tip toe into the first step of this goal. Tip tip toe.  I don’t know who is going to read this or what they’ll get out of it, but I invite whoever to join me on this journey–whatever twists and turns it may take. So cheers to the next 30 days (whatever that looks like!)

Quotable Quotes from People Much Smarter Than I:
Take the first step, and your mind will mobilize all its forces to your aid. But the first essential is that you begin. Once the battle is startled, all that is within and without you will come to your assistance.
 Robert Collier quotes (American motivational author, 1885-1950)
Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
 Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes (American Baptist Minister and Civil-Rights Leader. 19291968)

30×30 List – More Than A Bucket

A few years ago I went through what I now call a quarter-life crisis around age 25 and decided to make a list of 30 things I wanted to do before I was 30 years old. To address this funk head on, I played hookie from work and took myself out to coffee to get my attitude in check and a fresh vision of where I wanted to go. And thus my dirty thirty list was born–the 30×30 list, if you will…and so far I have been incredibly blessed to have crossed off 29 of those 30 items! The most recent was celebrating my birthday with friends in a hot air balloon. Not bad, not bad at all.

This wasn’t just a list of lifelong goals, I’ll-do-it-someday, or “bucket list,” but something much much more than that. Bucket lists or lists of goals and dreams are certainly not a new concept, nor are lists with distinct timelines (think New Year’s resolutions), but this 30×30 list of highly defined goals jumped off the page into my every day life and became a reality in the journey of setting goals for the different “buckets” that are important in my life. There’s my education bucket, financial bucket, romance bucket, travel/adventure bucket, fitness bucket, and spiritual bucket. I had lots of buckets that needed to be filled with dreams and ideas, memories and friendships. I quickly realized that I was not the only one out there with empty buckets waiting to be filled, and soon discovered people not only wanted to help me cross off my own 30×30 list, but create and accomplish lists of their own. Game on!

Skydiving, acting in a play, rafting the Grand Canyon, swimming with dolphins, and getting my master’s degree were just a few of the items on the list. I love receiving e-mails and communication updates of 30×30 lists from those I’ve met along the way. I am a firm believer on the importance of setting goals for every season of life, regardless whether you’re 18, 28, or 58. And the list for this decade will probably not look anything like next decade’s dreams. If I can do it, anyone can do it. Really. We all have dreams–it’s whether we have the courage, perseverance, drive, gumption (and stupidity) to go after them. One of my favorite parts of this whole 30×30 experience was meeting others with dreams of their own and helping them fulfill their own buckets…and that is what having a 30×30 list is all about. So the question remains…what’s on your list? What have you done or are in the process of doing? Tell me your list and I’ll tell you mine!